F1 Raceweek: Hamilton hopes rain will not scupper likely Monaco glory
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are on the brink of Formula One history going into Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.
With championship leader Hamilton on pole position and Valtteri Bottas second on a track where it is notoriously difficult to overtake, the team look poised to secure a sixth consecutive one-two, which would be an F1 record.
Hamilton is seeking a third career win in Monte Carlo, at a street circuit neither he nor his team would class among their most successful.
But Saturday's qualifying damped the optimism of any F1 fans hoping the race in Monaco would produce a third straight year without a Mercedes driver on the top step of the podium and an end to their emphatic 2019 start.
The Silver Arrows were a class apart again, with Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel a distant third and fourth on the grid, while Charles Leclerc will start in 15th after a Ferrari strategy blunder.
There is a chance of rain on race day, which Hamilton knows is one of the few potential obstacles standing in his way.
Asked about the threats, Hamilton said: "Hopefully the weather stays something like Saturday. I heard that there's a potential chance of rain on Sunday.
"It will be the same for all of us and if anything that makes it more exciting at this track. But ultimately, when you're on pole, you hope it will be just smooth sailing, a dry, safety car kind of day.
"The tyres that we have, it's a one-stop race generally, it has been for a long time here, so it's really just about keeping calm, cool and collected and just delivering on what we've practiced throughout the weekend.
"This race – as you've seen in the previous years – lots of things get thrown at you so we've just got to stay on our toes. But I honestly feel that we're the best prepared, we've had a really solid weekend of preparation. We've had good years of experience too.
"We have to continue to try to pull out something special. Max has been really quick this weekend as well, so anything can happen still, we have still got a good job to do. But there's no better place to start."
TRIBUTE TO LAUDA PLANNED
Hamilton dedicated his pole to the late Niki Lauda after qualifying, and F1 will honour the Austrian with a minute's silence on the starting grid prior to the race.
It was also revealed drivers, dignitaries and a number of Lauda's contemporaries will hold a red cap, which had become synonymous with the three-time world champion.
FERRARI EXPLAIN LECLERC MISTAKE
Leclerc was furious after failing to get out of Q1 and vowed to take overtaking risks in the race while hoping rain could somehow give him a chance to claim meaningful points.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto later explained the error that saw his driver remain in the garage as rivals set faster times to knock him out the top 15, blaming it on simulation tools that underestimated the lap time required to advance.
"It is not a good day," Binotto, who also saw his other driver Vettel hit the barriers in FP3, Q1 and Q3, told reporters. "We made a mistake, a misjudgement and a wrong evaluation of the cut-off time."
RICCIARDO A MAN TO WATCH
Daniel Ricciardo looks like a threat for Sunday, with a grid penalty for Pierre Gasly promoting the Renault man up to sixth.
He won last year's race in Monte Carlo and has two pole positions to his name at the track.
Ricciardo is in a good position to become the second Australian (after Mark Webber) to reach 1,000 career points. He must finish at least sixth to do that.
"I am happy," he said after qualifying. "Some variables [on Sunday] could make it interesting and I wouldn't be disappointed if I wake up to rain! But, wet or dry, I’ll be ready."
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
5. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
7. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
8. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull)
9. Carlos Sainz Jr (McLaren)
10. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso)
2018: Daniel Ricciardo (for Red Bull)
2017: Sebastian Vettel
2016: Lewis Hamilton
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 112
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 105 (-7)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 66 (-46)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 64 (-48)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 57 (-55)
1. Mercedes 217
2. Ferrari 121 (-96)
3. Red Bull 87 (-125)
Rain is likely to arrive at some point in Monaco on Sunday, but the question is whether it comes quickly enough to impact the race. Afternoon showers are possible, which would liven up a grand prix that often lacks excitement due to the difficulty drivers face with overtaking.
"The latest I've heard is a 60 per cent chance of rain but it keeps changing," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said immediately after qualifying.