MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 29: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer on track during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20160529-01400 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Monaco Grand Prix: Time for Red Bull to step up

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 29: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer on track during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20160529-01400 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Daniel Ricciardo jokes that he has a new strategy for Monaco this year — no pitstops, just keep going all the way to the chequered flag.

The rules do not allow him to do that, of course, but the comment underlines the lingering pain of last year when the Australian seized pole position but was robbed of victory by a pitstop bungle.

“It sucks. It hurts,” said the Red Bull driver, who finished second to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, at the time. “I got to the pits and everyone’s running around like headless chooks (chickens).”

The pole position was the only one that escaped champions Mercedes last year and Ricciardo took some solace when he then won in Malaysia after Hamilton suffered engine failure.

Title rivals Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, separated by just six points and with two wins apiece, will be the favourites in Sunday’s showcase race around the metal-fenced streets.

But Ricciardo reckons he can again muscle in on the action, even if his car’s Renault engine is down on power.

“Regardless of where the car is at come Monaco, I’m certainly confident going there,” he said at the previous Spanish Grand Prix, where he finished third.

“I certainly feel like I run those streets … I already get excited thinking about Monaco, I love that place. It’s cool,” he added.

“The memories of last year are still more sweet than bitter so I’m just excited to get another chance this year.”

Both Hamilton and Vettel have their own milestones in mind on what promises to be a sunny week in the Mediterranean principality for the two multiple title winners.

Vettel, the championship leader, is aiming to become the first Ferrari driver to win in Monaco since Michael Schumacher in 2001 — almost ancient history as far as Formula One is concerned.

Hamilton meanwhile can equal his late, great idol Ayrton Senna’s career tally of 65 pole positions on the 30th anniversary of the Brazilian’s first Monaco win.

Mercedes are going for their fifth successive Monaco win, with Hamilton triumphant last year after three victories in succession for now-retired champion Nico Rosberg.

The title duel, in the sixth and slowest round of the championship, will also be about absent friends and returning heroes.

Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion who called it a day last year, will be filling in for Spaniard Fernando Alonso at McLaren while the double champion takes on the Indianapolis 500 on the same weekend.

That challenge, made easier by McLaren’s on-track Formula One woes with the team now the only ones yet to score a point this season, has already made plenty of headlines.

Button’s return, to a race the now-37-year-old won in 2009, will also attract plenty of interest and the team can hope for some improvements after Alonso qualified seventh in Spain.

“We’ve made some progress in Spain, which was good,” McLaren’s executive director Zak Brown told Reuters.

“I don’t expect any significant improvement in Monaco other than we think we have a good race car that’s suited around Monaco. So I’m hoping we score our first points of the year.”

Mexican Sergio Perez, third last year for Force India ahead of Vettel, is now going for his 16th successive points finish.

The wider and faster cars could also make overtaking rarer than ever at a circuit where it is notoriously difficult to pass but where accidents are commonplace.

“Overtaking? Just no chance,” French driver Romain Grosjean told Reuters.

“Some places it’s going to be very tight. But on the other hand, it’s going to be faster and we’re going to have more grip and more downforce so we’ll love it.”

Reuters Facts & Stats for the Monaco Grand Prix

  • Lap distance: 3.337km. Total distance: 260.286km (78 laps)
  • Race lap record: One minute 17.939 seconds, Lewis Hamilton (Britain), Mercedes, 2016.
  • 2016 pole: Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 1:13.622
  • 2016 winner: Hamilton
  • Start time: 1200 GMT (1400 local)

Victories

  • Champions Mercedes have won 54 of 64 races since the introduction of the 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid power units in 2014.
  • Mercedes’ triple world champion Hamilton has 55 career victories, putting him second in the all-time list behind Michael Schumacher (91). Vettel has 44, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso is on 32 and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen 20.
  • Ferrari have won 226 races, McLaren 182, Williams 114, Mercedes 67 and Red Bull 52. McLaren and Williams have not won since 2012.

Pole Position

  • Mercedes have been on pole in 60 of the last 64 races.
  • Hamilton has 64 poles so far, one short of the late Ayrton Senna’s career total and five behind Schumacher’s record 68.
  • Podium
  • Hamilton has 108 podiums to date and is second on the all-time list behind Schumacher (155). Vettel has 91, Raikkonen 85.

Points

  • Force India’s Mexican Sergio Perez has finished the last 15 races in the points, the longest current run among those on the grid.
  • Force India are also the only team to have scored with both cars in every race this season.
  • Monaco Grand Prix
  • The last five races have all seen the safety car deployed.
  • Mercedes have won the last four Monaco Grands Prix (Nico Rosberg in 2013, 2014, 2015) and Hamilton in 2016.
  • Ferrari have not won in Monaco since 2001, with Michael Schumacher.
  • The driver on pole has won 10 of the last 16 races in Monaco. In 1996, Frenchman Olivier Panis won from 14th on the starting grid — the lowest winning start position to date.
  • Since 1950, only 10 times has the race been won by a driver starting lower than third.
  • With Rosberg retired and Alonso absent, four former Monaco winners will be on Sunday’s grid: Vettel (2011), Button (2009), Hamilton (2008, 2016), Raikkonen (2005).

Milestone

  • This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna’s first win in Monaco, with Lotus. He won there six times in all and remains the only Brazilian to have won in the principality.