The sector times that leave Mercedes' rivals fearful for Monaco

In recent years, Red Bull and Ferrari travelled to the Monaco GP bullish that the track’s characteristics could give it a decent shot of stopping the dominant Mercedes team.

The sector times that leave Mercedes' rivals fearful for Monaco

With the German car manufacturer's old engine advantage negated by the tight and twisty layout, and its longer wheelbase car not ideal for the street circuit, its rivals have been able to knock it off the top spot.

Sebastian Vettel triumphed in 2017, while Daniel Ricciardo won the race for Red Bull last year. The Australian should also have won in 2016 were it not for a pitstop blunder when his tyres were not ready.

But this year both Ferrari and Red Bull are under no illusions that Mercedes is heading there as the clear favourite – based not only on the German car manufacturer's dominant start to 2019 but also by analysis of where the W10 was quickest in Spain.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: "Their fifth 1-2 finish is exceedingly dominant and certainly in Monaco if you look at their performance in the low-speed section of [Bacelona] you'd expect them to be very strong in Monaco.

"I think they'll certainly be very much the favourites there but obviously we'll be trying our best to challenge them as best we can."

Horner's reference to the low-speed performance came after a Spanish GP weekend where Mercedes excelled in the tight final sector of the circuit.

The pace of cars from the tight left-hander at Turn 10 to the start-finish line is often viewed as a good indicator of how strong cars will be at Monaco – which features similar speed corners.

Taking the best time from each car, this year's best Sector 3 times from Q3 are below, with a comparison of how much change there has been since last year when Red Bull was the quickest team through there.

  Team S3 time Change 2018/2019
1. Mercedes 25.878s -0.441s
2. Red Bull 26.322s +0.163s
3. Ferrari 26.513s +0.314s
4. Haas 26.612s -0.159s
5. Toro Rosso 26.702s -0.141s
6. Renault 26.749s +0.068s
7. McLaren 26.811s +0.122s
8. Alfa Romeo 26.973s -0.184s
9. Racing Point 27.015s -0.013s
10. Williams 27.559s +0.015s

As well as Mercedes enjoying a 0.444 second advantage over Red Bull, and a 0.635 seconds edge over Ferrari this year, the S3 figures show the incredible step forward that Mercedes has made in 2019.

Asked whether the turnaround between Mercedes and Red Bull in the final sector was down to his team taking a step back with its car or Mercedes moving forward, Horner said: "I think it's a combination.

"Mercedes have done a very good job in extracting performance from the car in that part of the circuit, and I think that we are not at our optimum yet in terms of where we'd like to be with these new regulations and construction of tyres."

For Ferrari, whose driver Vettel singled out sector three as an 'Achilles Heel', there remains a slim hope that the sector three form may not be a full indicator of how things will be in Monaco.

Team principal Mattia Binotto said: "I think that Monaco is quite a different circuit to Barcelona in the overall way that you setup the car, and with the mechanical [aspects] that you can work on.

"The tyre compounds will be different to Barcelona so I think at the end it is a different circuit. There is no doubt that downforce is useful in Monaco as it is in Barcelona, but I think our drivers can still do well in Monaco."

Few believe, however, that anyone other than Mercedes will be at the front this weekend.

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