F1 driver Charles Leclerc claimed a surprise pole position for Ferrari for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. The Monegasque has had a torrid time at his home event but now has a chance to redeem himself in the most spectacular of fashions.
He's joined on the front row by Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who will be hoping to make the most out of Lewis Hamilton's poor form - with the Englishman starting a lowly seventh after claiming his 100th pole position in Spain.
With all of the front runners set to start of the soft compound tyre and with overtaking at Monaco extremely difficult, the pit-strategy will play a crucial role in determining this weekend's winners and losers.
What are Pirelli saying?
The Italian company debuted their C5 tyre for this weekend. The C5 is the softest compound in Pirelli's range and given the circuit's twisty nature it made sense to go with it. The tyre manufacturer is also predicting a straightforward one-stop strategy in the race, with the safety car and variable weather conditions to also play a role.
"The 78-lap Monaco Grand Prix tends to be reasonably straightforward strategically, as a one-stop race with quite a wide pit stop window and a number of different possibilities," Pirelli said in a statement.
"The top 10 will all start on the soft tyre, and that choice is likely to be mirrored by most of the runners but either the medium or the hard can be used for the second stint. And there's also just a chance that some drivers further down the grid might try the opposite strategy: running the harder tyre first, before moving onto the soft at the end."
Mario Isola, Pirelli's head of F1 and car racing also emphasised the importance of track position.
"Monaco is unique, but its absence from the calendar since 2019 only emphasises its specific characteristics and makes us even more pleased to be going back there. Mechanical grip is key to success as is qualifying and strategy, with the renowned difficulty in overtaking," Isola said.
"Strategy tends to be reactive, with teams making their stops at the moment that gives them the maximum advantage on track, thanks also to a wide pit stop window resulting from the very low tyre wear and degradation."
Hamilton's tough position
The reigning world champion faces the prospect of losing the lead for the world championship by the event's conclusion. The Englishman cannot rely on his prodigious race craft to the same extent he could have on any other circuit and will need to execute his strategy to perfection in order to salvage his race weekend.
The Brit will also have to ensure he gets off the line cleanly as dropping further back at the start increases his possibility of a DNF.
That being said, the Mercedes team are masters of turning around a bad situation and both driver and team are equally likely to capitalize on any misfortune that might occur around them.
Battle at the front
Leclerc and Verstappen's on-track battles date back to their karting with both drivers being head and shoulders above the chasing pack. The pair will reignite their rivalry at Monaco where the run into the first corner could prove to be crucial for both men.
Verstappen has been lighting quick of the start line this season and there is no reason to expect that the Dutchman won't challenge the Ferrari driver going into Sainte Devote. However, given that this is Leclerc's home race, the Monegasque will be in no mood to relent his hold on P1.
Old teammates become foes
The two joker cards at the front are Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. The former teammates will start fourth and fifth and both drivers could snatch a podium if one of the drivers in front of them has an issue.
Sainz in particular has shown himself to be remarkably quick around the Monte Carlo street circuit and the Spaniard was a little aggrieved to have had his session cut short during Q3.
The start will determine a lot for the pair, so expect them to be at their sharpest when the lights go out.
Poor old Daniel Ricciardo. The affable Australian has not had an easy time adjusting to life at McLaren and will start the race from 12th on the grid. Given that this is essentially his favourite Grand Prix on the calendar your heart does out to the man, who looks a shadow of his former self.
A cleverly executed strategy by McLaren might help his cause and he should in theory at least finish in the points. However, the former Red Bull driver still has a long way to go before he can close the gap to his teammate Norris.
While overtaking might prove to be difficult, the high possibility of a safety car as well as the variable weather conditions could spark chaos during the race. While Leclerc and Verstappen have given themselves the best possible chance of winning the race, it would be foolish to rule out any of the drivers behind them, especially if one or both of the two mentioned variables comes into effect.