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Is a Ferrari victory in Monaco on the cards? Our verdict

by Matt Beer
7 min read

Ferrari set the Monaco Grand Prix practice pace and then took pole – despite a crash – with Charles Leclerc.

But can it actually convert that speed into a first Formula 1 victory since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix?

Our writers give their verdicts:

It’s a test of the pitwall from here

Mark Hughes

Charles Leclerc Ferrari Monaco qualifying 2021

Yes, it’s totally realistic. But it’s going to be up against Red Bull – which is a big test of Ferrari’s pitwall operations, which haven’t been really tested under the spotlight since those sometimes shaky calls when it was last running at the front 2017-19.

Assuming Leclerc maintains his advantage into Ste Devote the game immediately becomes a strategic one as the cars will not run at anywhere near their potential.

Controlling the pace, staying on top of where the traffic gaps are going to appear, then letting Leclerc loose at the appropriate time, staying calm under Red Bull pressure throughout. That’s without speed of thought and reaction to any safety cars.

It’s way more complicated than just winning because it’s on pole – but it’s totally in Ferrari’s hands.

It will be a failure if it doesn’t win

Edd Straw

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Saturday Monte Carlo, Monaco

Ferrari has the pace, and the drivers, to win this race – the first time we have been able to say that of Ferrari since 2019.

There’s every chance this might be its only shot at victory this season, so if that opportunity is missed it can only be construed as a failure – unless, that is, some outrageous piece of bad luck goes against it.

Assuming Leclerc does indeed start on pole position, Ferrari still has the means, motive and opportunity to pull this off. This weekend has proved how good the car is in slow corners, how compliant it is over the bumpy surface and kerbs, and confirmed that the power unit package, while improved from last year, still lags behind where it needs to be.

It also has the drivers. Leclerc has proved his pace and could finally get a result in his home race, having never reached the chequered flag in four starts in F1 and F2, while Carlos Sainz Jr has an excellent record here. But as Sainz himself said, from fourth it will be very difficult for him to be a victory threat as, while he can maybe undercut one car, doing that to three is not possible. What he is is the insurance policy.

Ferrari sets the highest standards for itself. If it can pull off what seemed an unlikely victory coming into the weekend, it will represent valuable points in the battle for third in the constructors’ championship but most importantly be a pressure-release valve.

That’s why it has to win. It’ll be tough, but sometimes you only get one shot at the top level, and Ferrari needs to make it count.

There’s no reason why not

Scott Mitchell

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Saturday Monte Carlo, Monaco

It’s absolutely realistic. There’s a big to-do list, but nothing on that list is insurmountable.

Leclerc needs to hold the lead into Turn 1. That’s the single biggest challenge: nailing the start and holding on to Ste Devote. Fortunately it’s a short run so it’s arguably one of the easiest starts to maintain position.

After that it’s about tyre management. In Spain, the Ferrari was kinder on its tyres than at other races this season like Bahrain and Portugal.

With Leclerc potentially able to manage the pace out front without having to aggressively defend, controlling his degradation should be pretty doable.

Then it’s about strategy, where it’s in Ferrari’s hands. But for Leclerc, everything in his power is doable. Especially given the inherent speed of the car this week.

Leclerc is quite simply favourite

Gary Anderson

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Thursday Monte Carlo, Monaco

I went into the builders’ merchant that I use on Tuesday and a couple of the guys there who know I was involved in F1 asked me who I thought would win in Monaco and who they should put their hard-earned cash on. My instant response was Charles Leclerc.

I genuinely believe that if Ferrari can fix his car to the spec he requires and have a straightforward race – in other words not wet or anything out of the norm happening – Ferrari, and especially Leclerc, have a real chance of taking the win.

Feb 01 : Charles Leclerc: future champion or over-rated?

The car looks good in both drivers’ hands so don’t be surprised if we see two sets of red overalls on the podium. It rides the kerbs well, it has good traction and if you want to be anywhere in Monaco, it’s pole position.

Verstappen will be pretty racey on that first lap but I don’t think Leclerc will be as much of a gentleman as Lewis Hamilton was in the first corner at Barcelona. Sparks could fly, but that’s racing so bring it on.

Will it be hare or tortoise?

Glenn Freeman

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Saturday Monte Carlo, Monaco

The answer to the question posed at the top of this page is definitely yes. This isn’t a fluke pole for Leclerc, because Ferrari’s pace has been evident since Thursday.

Assuming Leclerc leads up the hill from Ste Devote on lap one, what will be interesting is how Ferrari goes about trying to pull off this unlikely shot at victory.

Does it back itself, set a pace that the others might struggle to match, then hope it can cover off any attempts at undercuts from teams that try to stop before Leclerc?

Or will Leclerc manage his pace and keep the field close together, reducing the chance of gaps for the other frontrunning cars to drop into? If Sainz holds position at the start he should be able to cover off any strategy gambles from deeper in the field, leaving Leclerc to worry about one Red Bull and one Mercedes.

That might sound like overthinking things at a track where overtaking is basically impossible. But you can bet that those scenarios and many many more have been discussed inside Ferrari ever since Leclerc’s crash in qualifying ended anyone else’s chances of beating him to pole. It’ll be fascinating to see how Ferrari plays it today.

Sainz gives it the ace card

Matt Beer

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Saturday Monte Carlo, Monaco

Perhaps even more surprising than Ferrari’s pole – or maybe not, given the quality of its driver line-up – is the fact it’s in the strongest overall position of any top team across both its cars.

With Lewis Hamilton a disgruntled seventh and Sergio Perez a fraught ninth, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen go into battle without wingmen.

Monaco is a race where the vagaries of where you emerge in traffic after a pitstop, or how a virtual or actual safety car (or even red flag) disrupts your strategy, can make all the difference.

Ferrari has two highly competitive cars in the fight, which means it stands a much better chance of covering multiple bases than its opposition.

Of course that might mean inadvertently sacrificing the chances of one of its drivers by committing them to what turns out to be the wrong strategy – or for instance leaving Sainz out on an ‘in case of safety car’ left-field tactic while going conventional with poleman Leclerc.

But with such an incredible opportunity in its grasp, Ferrari just needs to do what’s necessary to win this race and revitalise its F1 programme – and worry about any intra-team fallout later.

Ferrari’s strategy record a concern

Rob Hansford

Ferrari F1 Gp Bahrain

Being on pole position at Monaco should mean that as long as Leclerc makes it through the first corner unscathed and ahead, he should be odds-on favourite to win. But Red Bull clearly has a faster car and while it will be almost impossible to overtake on track, Ferrari could still lose the victory in the pitstop window.

Ferrari has been prone to cracking pressure in recent years and a slow stop could gift Red Bull the win. And if Red Bull manages to get a clean undercut it will no doubt have the pace to get ahead of Ferrari if Verstappen doesn’t get caught up in traffic.

In essence, it should be a straightforward win for Ferrari, but that pitstop window will pose a real concern and could just be its undoing.

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