Drivers get the bends

The Monte Carlo circuit provides one of the most beautiful settings in Formula One.  (GETTY IMAGES)

Triple Formula One champion Nelson Piquet once described the Monaco Grand Prix as "like trying to cycle around your living-room". Its twisting, narrow streets and sharp, tight corners make tomorrow's race one of the most exciting on the F1 calendar, and McLaren could be about to hand Lewis Hamilton a way back into the world championship.

The Briton is currently joint-second, seven points behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen with the Italian team – whose No2 shares the same points total as Hamilton – building what looks like an already unassailable lead in the constructors' competition. But McLaren, and Hamilton, love this race.

The British team have enjoyed more success at this venue than any of their competitors. Not even a Michael Schumacher-led Ferrari have got close to their 14 wins in the municipality, and the 23-year-old in the hotseat is in prime position to steer them to glory yet again.

Fernando Alonso has won in Monte Carlo for two consecutive years, but it is difficult to see the Spaniard making it a hat-trick when he has failed to achieve a podium finish in the blue of Renault this season.

The Grand Prix's layout makes it conducive to intrigue and surprise in equal measure, highlighted by last year's events when Monte Carlo provided the extravagant backdrop for one of F1's most famous spats. McLaren forbid its young pretender to challenge Alonso's first place as both embarked on separate quests for the world championship and a furious Hamilton had to settle for second. The two former teammates have barely spoken since.

With his old sparring partner seemingly out of contention this time, McLaren's No1 will look to utilise their dominance on the circuit and close the gap on The Flying Finn in the drivers' standings.

However, just because he drives for McLaren does not mean Hamilton simply needs to show up. But on a course where drivers' skills are tested to the full, last year's runner-up has enjoyed success before. In 2006, Hamilton, before his brilliant debut in F1, took the coveted GP2 title in Monaco.

Although speeding round the glitzy town at a relatively slow 88mph, the track is still one of the most dangerous around. And if the weather forecast rings true, heavy rain in the Mediterranean will make the Grand Prix even more treacherous, especially as the cars no longer rely on traction control and engine breaking.

Navigating the many elevation changes and tight corners in hazardous conditions won't worry Hamilton, though, as he and McLaren look to end Ferrari's four-race winning streak. The enclosed environment in the millionaire's playground should make it captivating viewing. Hamilton says, ominously, "if I feel I can win anywhere, it's definitely Monaco".

Raikkonen beware.

 

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