On the track, McLaren and Ferrari will be battling for victory at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend. Off the track, all eyes will be on the return of embattled FIA president Max Mosley.
McLaren goes into Formula One’s signature race on a high, even after Felipe Massa notched Ferrari’s fourth straight win of this year at the Turkish GP and the Brazilian’s third straight at Istanbul.
Lewis Hamilton’s drive to a second-place finish was one of his best considering his tire problems, while Heikki Kovalainen’s 12th-place finish came only two weeks after a violent crash had McLaren believing the Finn could have won it if a tire puncture hadn’t mired his start.
With no tire problems, improved pace and only the winding streets of the world’s smallest principality to navigate, McLaren must show it can again win at the circuit where it has done so in 14 of the past 25 races.
“It is the Grand Prix that every driver wants to win,” said Hamilton, who triumphed here in GP2 in 2006 before finishing runner-up to former teammate Fernando Alonso last year.
The 23-year-old British driver will not have to yield to Alonso this year and is eyeing his first win since the season-opening Australian GP.
“Unpredictable is the word that sums up Monaco from a performance perspective. It is very exciting to drive, there is no room for any error all weekend,” Hamilton said. “You are on the limit the whole time ... It is so tight and narrow, and when you consider how quick you are driving it is unreal.”
Meanwhile, Mosley, who lives in Monaco, is due to appear at the race.
The 68-year-old Briton has missed three races since being exposed in a British tabloid for participating in a sadomasochistic sex session in London with five prostitutes in an orgy that reportedly had a Nazi theme. On Sunday, it emerged that the prostitute who set up the sting was the wife of a British MI5 intelligence agent, who has since been fired.
Mosley, who is suing The News of the World newspaper, will be expected in the paddock as he conducts “business as usual.”
“The FIA president will attend the Monaco GP in his official capacity as expected,” said the governing body, which is scheduled to hold a vote in two weeks to decide whether Mosley can stay as FIA president.
Defending F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen leads the overall drivers’ standings with 35 points, seven better than Hamilton and teammate Massa.
Raikkonen would like to add his name to the list of greats — Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Graham Hill are a few — with multiple triumphs at Monte Carlo.
The Finn, who won here with McLaren in 2005, knows qualifying will be important for the Italian team, which have five victories to show for in the last 30 years at Monaco.