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What Monaco GP clues can we get from Spain’s Sector 3 data

It requires the maximum amount of downforce, a well-handing chassis, excellent traction and being good on the brakes.

And, whereas at other tracks, aero efficiency can be the name of the game as teams trim out downforce levels, at Monaco that does not matter. Power too isn’t critical.

All these factors mean the competitive order can be very different at Monaco compared to other venues, which adds another layer of intrigue for F1’s blue riband event.

But each year, there is one clue offered about how things are going to shape up.

It’s the performance of cars through Sector 3 at the Barcelona circuit, for the low speed sequence of bends and the tight chicane pretty much mirror the demands of the streets of Monaco.

If you are quick through Sector 3 in Spain, then that’s normally a pretty good sign.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

So how did things stack up at the recent Spanish GP? Here’s the fastest Sector 3 times for each car in qualifying.

1. Red Bull 26.295s
2. Mercedes 26.400s
3. Ferrari 26.580s
4. Alpine 26.632s
5. McLaren 26.782s
6. AlphaTauri 26.827s
7. Aston Martin 26.923s
8. Williams 27.131s
9. Alfa Romeo 27.164s
10. Haas 27.311s

For Red Bull, after two races where it has lost out to Mercedes, the prospects look good with its car the fastest through S3.

Sergio Perez is certainly bullish about what could be on the cards for the RB16B around the streets of Monte Carlo.

“I’m looking forward massively to Monaco, especially with this car,” said the Mexican. “I think we have a shot of winning the race.”

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10

Photo by: Joe Portlock / Motorsport Images

Mercedes also thinks that things are tipped in Red Bull’s favour, especially as it appears its Milton Keynes rival has a downforce advantage.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “On paper, I would probably say it would suit Red Bull more than us.

“We’ve been running our max downforce wing and we saw it on their car on Friday [in Spain] but they didn’t race it there, so they can put a bit more downforce on. So on paper, it’s probably for them.”

The fight behind the top two also looks intriguing, with early season ‘best of the rest’ contender McLaren not appearing as comfortable in the low speed sector as Ferrari and Alpine.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr reckons it was certainly a good boost for the Maranello team that they looked so strong in S3.

“Obviously having good downforce in the last sector gives you a good feeling and it puts you in a good state of mind going to Monaco because, for sure, you prefer to be quick in sector three in Barcelona,” he said.

“But at the same time, Monaco then has a lot of specifics with car set-up, and tyre preparation for qualifying. The cars are so different in Monaco that it could change a bit the picture.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL34

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL34

Photo by: Joe Portlock / Motorsport Images

McLaren certainly thinks the picture is not defined, and believes that there is scope for the competitive picture to change once the downforce is whacked on this weekend.

Lando Norris said: “The big difference between Monaco and sector three in Spain is obviously we run the set-up very different in Spain.

“It’s a lot more focused to sector one and sector two, with the high speed turns. And it is quite the opposite in Monaco where there is a lot more low speed. We also run a lot softer the whole car because of the bumps and everything like that.

“I think the whole characteristic of the car is to change a lot. So it’s quite an unexplored territory for this car and so on.”

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The other ultimate truth of Monaco is that it’s a weekend where drivers being error free, not hitting traffic in qualifying, a well timed safety car and not being hit by bad luck can often be just as important in the fight for wins as having a good car.

As Shovlin says: “Even if you go there with the best car and you’ve got a great package, it’s still an awfully difficult race to win.”

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