Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari need to bounce back and Red Bull's pole chance: Monaco Grand Prix talking points
Having won the first two races of the season, Vettel has not finished on the podium since to fall 17 points behind in the championship fight
Ahead of the sixth round of Formula One 2018 here is a look at some of the talking points to watch for in Monte Carlo as Ferrari look to bounce back to winning ways, Red Bull Racing push to be competitive at a track where engine power does not matter, while Romain Grosjean simply seeks to stay out of trouble.
Vettel and Ferrari look for a riposte
Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix will be only the sixth round of the Formula One season yet it already feels like a vital one for Ferrari.
It was April 8 when Sebastian Vettel triumphed in Bahrain to make it two wins out of two at the start of the campaign.
But that feels like a long time ago as in the subsequent three races Vettel has not finished on the podium once and from having a 17-point lead he now trails world champion Lewis Hamilton by 17 points.
Spain, two weeks ago, was arguably Ferrari's weakest performance of the year so far as they struggled to match Hamilton and Mercedes-GP on raw speed, and excessive tyre wear meant that Vettel had to settle for fourth place.
Monaco was the scene 12 months ago of a dominant display from Ferrari as Vettel led home teammate Kimi Raikkonen in an one-two finish and the Italian team will desperately want a repeat in Sunday's 78-lap race around the streets of Monte Carlo.
Hamilton and Mercedes, despite an inconsistent start to the campaign, have the early ascendancy in the standings. If history repeats itself from last year the German marque will only get stronger as the season goes on so Ferrari really need to be making full use of their early pace advantage now.
Victory on Sunday might not be enough to put Vettel back at the top of the drivers' standings, but it would slow the momentum of Hamilton, who has won the past two races.
With Canada next, which Hamilton has won for the past three years and Ferrari have not won at since 2004, it is crucial that Vettel and Ferrari stop the rot and are back on the podium, ideally on the top spot, this weekend.
Red Bull's best pole chance
Before the era of Mercedes dominance in F1, which has seen them win the double of the drivers' and constructors' titles for the past four years, it was Red Bull Racing who were the team to beat.
Between 2010 and 2013 they won both world titles each year and won 41 races and took 52 pole positions.
The one pole position to have been claimed by the Austrian team since the end of 2013 came in Monaco two years ago when Daniel Ricciardo topped the times in qualifying.
Given the shortfall of power in the Renault engine they use, compared to Mercedes and Ferrari, this might well be Red Bull's best chance again of taking a pole in 2018.
You do not need a powerful engine to be competitive in Monaco due to the lack of the long straights. In Monte Carlo it is about aerodynamic grip and good traction out of the corners, something the Red Bull has in abundance.
The Red Bulls struggled to match both Mercedes and Ferrari on lap time around Barcelona earlier this month. But, the final sector, which is made up of a number of slow corners and a chicane, saw Red Bull be very quick compared to their rivals.
Given the bulk of the Monaco track is similar to that final few corners at the Circuit de Catalunya there is every reason for Ricciardo and Max Verstappen to believe they can be competitive this weekend.
Qualifying is important in Monaco, given it is nigh on impossible to overtake on track. In the past 30 years only once, Olivier Panis in 1996, has a driver won in Monte Carlo who started lower than third on the grid.
Red Bull have not had a car in the top three in qualifying once in 2018, but Monaco is there best hope of ending that statistic.
Grosjean needs a quiet weekend
Given the high proximity of barriers around the Monaco track, staying out of trouble and having a clean race can be easier said than done.
But, that is exactly what Haas driver Romain Grosjean needs after his horrendous race in Spain that culminated in his spin on the opening lap of action that eliminated not only himself from proceedings but the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly as well.
Grosjean, deservedly, has come in for criticism for that mistake and a poor run of form that has seen him not score points in his past nine races.
A three-place grid penalty for his blunder in Barcelona means Grosjean faces a tough race on Sunday mired in the midfield.
But it is important for rebuilding his confidence, and probably belief in him from within the senior members of the Haas team, that he gets through the weekend in Monte Carlo with a minimum of fuss and avoiding contact with the barriers and other cars.
Updated: May 22, 2018 12:37 PM