Lewis Hamilton is feeling the pressure in Monaco with Red Bull duo hot on his heels 

  • Lewis Hamilton heads into Monte Carlo 43 points behind Nico Rosberg
  • Hamilton can sustain his lifestyle and succeed according to Jenson Button 
  • Sir Stirling Moss has hailed F1 as the 'most exciting it has ever been'
  • Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are eager to impress 

Monte Carlo, where colourful characters come to reinvent themselves, offers Lewis Hamilton the chance of Formula One rehabilitation. But down the paddock, Jenson Button would not wager a fiver on that coming to pass.

'I would say Daniel Ricciardo,' ventured Button when asked for his tip to win the Monaco Grand Prix. 'The Mercedes are very good but the Red Bulls can match them on a circuit where you don't need power so much. They have an upgrade and it could be very close.'

That verdict is bad news for his fellow Monaco resident, Hamilton. He has not won a race in eight attempts, an unfathomable anomaly for a talent as great as his.

Jenson Button delivers a blow to his compatriot Lewis Hamilton by backing Daniel Ricciardo to win in Monaco

Jenson Button delivers a blow to his compatriot Lewis Hamilton by backing Daniel Ricciardo to win in Monaco

 

 

But during that long winless streak stretching back to his title-clinching victory in Texas last October he could at least invest faith in the fact that the Mercedes machines were without parallel. His turn would come, once ill-luck and bad starts were conquered.

Now, exploding that certainty, come Red Bull. They won a fortnight ago in Spain in the guise of Max Verstappen, the world's oldest 18-year-old tyro, and the slow, tight track here places a premium on a good chassis and so offers the Milton Keynes-based team further expectation of success.

Ricciardo was fastest in practice on Thursday. He has a new engine, making him favourite ahead of his team-mate, who is using the old one. However, Verstappen is a fearless overtaker and, if he keeps his machine out of the barriers, could yet add a dream victory here to his extraordinary list of achievements.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are hot on the heels of Hamilton after the duo impress for Red Bull

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are hot on the heels of Hamilton after the duo impress for Red Bull

18-year-old wonderkid Verstappen has revealed that he wants to be world champion within five years

18-year-old wonderkid Verstappen has revealed that he wants to be world champion within five years

However, the story of the hybrid era that dawned in 2014 tells us that Mercedes are the team to beat. If so, it will pit two drivers with very different Monaco records against each other. Rosberg is attempting to win the race for the fourth consecutive time. 

Only Ayrton Senna, with five wins between 1989 and 1993, has ever strung together a longer winning sequence on motor racing's most famous ribbon of tarmac.

Hamilton, amazingly, has won here only once, in 2008. Last year's race was a nightmare for him. He went into the pits needlessly while leading at a late stage and with triumph a near-formality.

Nico Rosberg sits pretty at the top of the standings - 39 points ahead of his nearest competitor Kimi Raikkonen

Nico Rosberg sits pretty at the top of the standings - 39 points ahead of his nearest competitor Kimi Raikkonen

His 43-point deficit to Rosberg five races into the season has caused some observers to question whether his wearing-out of red carpets is taking its toll on his focus. 

Hamilton is unfazed and unapologetic. 'I don't have any self-doubt,' he said of his capability. 'Never have. Why would I? I've been racing 23 years. If you look at the average I've won probably more than anyone.'

Hamilton speaks confidently ahead of the race in Monte Carlo, claiming he has no reason for 'self doubt' 

Hamilton speaks confidently ahead of the race in Monte Carlo, claiming he has no reason for 'self doubt' 

Button, the last Briton to win here, in 2009, does not buy into the theory that Hamilton's transatlantic lifestyle has a negative effect on his driving. 'Zero,' said the McLaren man of the impact. 

'He travels in a private jet, which is the most relaxing way to do it. And as long as he spends the number of days that are needed to get into the time zone and takes the right drugs (such as sleeping pills), I don't see a problem. He's been doing this for 10 years.'

Button believes that Hamilton's extravagant lifestyle does not have any impact on his ability to drive

Button believes that Hamilton's extravagant lifestyle does not have any impact on his ability to drive

There are two certainties at Monaco: everything is overpriced — a Coke at Hotel Hermitage, Bernie Ecclestone's customary billet, costs €12 (£9) — and pole position is hugely important given the paucity of passing opportunities on the cramped track.

An intriguing prospect is the two Mercedes being on the front row. Will they tangle as they did in Barcelona on the first lap? Hamilton and Rosberg have spoken about the incident in private. It is said to have been an amicable discussion. 

But Hamilton has hit on what appears to be a truth, namely that Rosberg has adopted a more aggressive on-track personality — a final attempt to match his naturally more gung-ho team-mate.

Hamilton admits that team-mate Rosberg has become more aggressive, and that he needs to match him 

Hamilton admits that team-mate Rosberg has become more aggressive, and that he needs to match him 

'From Brazil onwards he changed his approach a bit,' said Hamilton, referring to the penultimate race of last season. 'I remember I tried to go around the outside and he blocked me. I thought, 'Good on you. I would have done exactly the same'. From there he's been working harder for position, rightly.'

Hamilton, so often a conjuror of victories from positions of adversity, has to re-establish his supremacy soon.

43 points behind Rosberg, Hamilton will hope to replicate his 2008 win to narrow the gap on Rosberg

43 points behind Rosberg, Hamilton will hope to replicate his 2008 win to narrow the gap on Rosberg

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