By Fernando Alonso's own admission, the next two races on the 2023 Formula 1 calendar are Aston Martin's best chance of a win this year.
"The two Red Bulls were unbreakable here [in Miami] and they are always super fast, but maybe in Monaco, maybe in Barcelona, we have a possibility," said the Spaniard after the Miami Grand Prix.
The team have enjoyed a strong start and have managed to maintain this momentum at varying tracks, with Baku being the only outlier due to the superior pace of Charles Leclerc.
Whenever Red Bull have faulted with Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez, Alonso has made sure that Aston Martin have been there to pick up the points and podiums. The result is amassing 102 points in the Constructors' Championship after five races – 47 more than the amount they scored after 23 races in 2022.
It would be absurd to claim that Red Bull will not be the favourites for a win at Monaco; after all, they have taken six victories since 2010 around the Principality. But the squad's main 'weakness' this year has been their tyre warm-up tactics in qualifying, something that cost Verstappen a shot at pole for both Miami and Baku.
One of the key characteristics of the RB19 is its front suspension, which enables it to achieve an 'anti-dive' effect that contributes to its superior aero package. But this comes with its shortcomings as it can affect the brake balance; an issue that plagued Sergio Perez at the Australian GP.
Verstappen has been able to manage the problem during his qualifying runs, but the net result has made it harder to get the tyres into the working window for a hot lap. Around the short and unforgiving Monaco roads, this could pose even more of a problem for both drivers.
Alonso's past success
The month of May in 2023 marked 10 years since Fernando Alonso's last Grand Prix win when, at the end of the height of Ferrari's V8 success, he took them to an emphatic win at his home race around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
He last won around Monaco from pole in 2006, so it's not impossible that he could repeat this feat in the British racing green colours.
Given that Monaco is too narrow for any overtaking manoeuvre to not end in a crash, its fair to say that half of the race is already won during qualifying on Saturday.
The other half is the strategy on Sunday, which Ferrari showed last year with Charles Leclerc just how critical it can be if the wrong decisions are made.
One of Alonso's qualities is his ability to read a race from within the car, often times dictating to the team what he thinks is the best option strategically. This can sometimes extend to offering driving advice to his teammate or doing some PR by describing his car as "lovely to drive" over the radio.
Krack: Aston Martin must take opportunities
The AMR23 is strongest in the slow- and medium-speed corners, with there being little opportunities around Monaco where they could haemorrhage time to Red Bull on long straights.
Leclerc could pose a threat given Ferrari's pace in similar conditions; he managed to set a new lap record around Baku this year in the SF-23. But with the Monegasque comes a difficult relationship with his home race, having experienced multiple issues at the track in the past.
Curiously, since taking four podiums in the opening five races, Aston Martin's tact has changed somewhat from being bullish about their win chances to now Mike Krack saying "if the opportunities are there" they will take them at the Miami GP.
"The opportunity is there. If you start from the first row, your aim has to be to win the race," he told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"But, again, we have strong competitors. But we'll try, we'll give it our best."
You can be sure that Alonso will be giving everything to stand on the top step and break his win drought.
Balve Bains is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to ask if Mattia Binotto could really join Alpine, what Pirelli's new tyres are about and the latest on the Red Bull-Ford partnership!