Monaco GP: Who's under pressure in Monte Carlo?

Careers and championship ambitions could be on the line as F1 2018 heads to its most famous street circuit this weekend

3y ago

One of only two scoreless drivers in F1 2018, and on a nine-race run of point-less finishes, Romain Grosjean arrives in Monaco on the back of two clumsy crashes.

The Frenchman will serve a three-place grid penalty in Monte Carlo after instigating the multi-car pile-up on the opening lap of the Spanish GP - a race after spinning into the wall in Baku behind the Safety Car.

Grosjean's displays in 2018 have come under greater scrutiny given Haas appear to have the best car of the midfield pack and team-mate Kevin Magnussen has collected all of Haas' 19 points so far and leading the qualifying head-to-head 4-1.

The 32-year-old is going through arguably the toughest spell of his career since 2012, when a series of collisions led to him receiving a one-race ban. With his contract up at the end of the season, and the Haas seat looking increasingly attractive, Grosjean needs to quickly turn around his fortunes.

If paddock rumours are to be believed then Brendon Hartley could be driving to save his Formula 1 career after just nine races. The Kiwi has suffered a very difficult, and painful, start to F1 2018 with just one point and involvement in four crashes on his record.

Hartley had already hit Sergio Perez in Bahrain before miscommunication caused him and Pierre Gasly to collide in China and that was followed by Hartley nearly sending his team-mate airborne in Azerbaijan. And then there was Hartley's massive shunt in final practice in Spain which destroyed the rear of his Toro Rosso, his gearbox and engine - the latter pushing him closer to a grid penalty.

While the team-mate head-to-head stats are pretty even - Hartley leads 3-2 in race results while Gasly is 3-2 ahead in qualifying - Gasly has produced the more impressive performances, including fourth place in Bahrain.

Red Bull and Toro Rosso run a ruthless driver programme and have a history of axing a driver after a few patchy results - Hartley need only ask his predecessor Daniil Kvyat!

Hartley needs to match or exceed Gasly's efforts this weekend, or the questions over his future will only mount.

It's no easy feat going up against Fernando Alonso as a team-mate but it's been an underwhelming start for Stoffel Vandoorne in 2018.

Vandoorne is the only driver yet to out-qualify their team-mate in 2018 - he now trails Alonso 21-3 in their season-and-a-bit together - and has on average been nearly four tenths off the Spaniard on Saturdays. While he has secured three top-10 finishes so far this season, the point-less Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin are the only other drivers who have not finished ahead of their team-mates come race day.

"If Stoffel wants to keep that drive for next year, he needs to be an awful lot closer to Fernando. There's nowhere to hide at this level," Sky F1 expert Martin Brundle said at the Spanish GP.

It's a different sort of pressure from the three drivers above, but Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari arrive in Monaco desperately in need of a victory to get their championship challenge back on track.

All looked rosy at the Scuderia as Vettel stormed to victory in the opening two races, but the German has not been on the podium since after a combination of badly-timed Safety Cars, mistakes, poor strategy and high tyre wear.

That has seen Vettel go from holding a 17-point lead at the top of the Drivers' Championship to trailing Lewis Hamilton by the same margin.

The stakes are raised given Mercedes expect this weekend's race to be among their weakest of the season.

"Ferrari need a good result, coming off the back of a couple of scruffy grands prix where they have not scored anything like their potential number of points," said Brundle. A concurring Anthony Davidson added: "Ferrari need to get the job done to keep their championship hopes alive."

Another race without a victory, or a podium at the very least, and Vettel may see his hopes of a fifth championship slipping away.

He's under significantly less pressure than before his Spanish GP podium, but Monaco has not been a happy hunting ground for Max Verstappen in his brief F1 career.

Verstappen has crashed four times around the twisty street circuit and last year's race was the first time he had seen the chequered flag.

Furthermore, Verstappen is still to have a clean weekend in F1 2018. His contact with Lance Stroll's Williams in Spain - although the Canadian was deemed to be largely at fault - means Verstappen has either hit another driver or spun in every race this season.

With Red Bull arguably the team to beat this weekend, Verstappen requires a faultless weekend at a track where he knows all too well that the slightest error has big consequences.

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