Monaco (SportsNetwork.com) - Formula One will hold its most prestigious race of the season -- the Monaco Grand Prix -- on Sunday.
The Monaco GP is contested on the streets in world-famous Monte Carlo. It is one of the most difficult circuits on the F1 calendar. Overtaking here is virtually impossible. So qualifying is most important, with the pole sitter winning 10 of the last 11 races, including the previous six. Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who resides in the Principality of Monaco, has won this race from the pole the previous two years. If Rosberg can win it this weekend, he would become the fourth driver with three or more consecutive victories in the Monaco GP.
Ayrton Senna won it five straight times from 1989-93. Graham Hill first accomplished the feat from 1963-65. Alain Prost won the Monaco GP consecutively from 1984-86.
Two weeks ago, Rosberg claimed his first victory of the 2015 season in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. He started on the pole and had a superb performance in that 66-lap race, crossing the finish line 17.5 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate and championship rival.
Rosberg trimmed Hamilton's lead in the F1 world championship standings from 27 points to 20 in Spain. Hamilton, the two-time and defending world champion, had won three of the first four grand prix this season -- Australia, China and Bahrain.
"We had a perfect weekend in Spain and, for me personally, it was good to close the gap a little in the points," Rosberg said. "Monaco is a home race for me, and it's strange to just walk or take a scooter to the racetrack, but also very cool to sleep in your own bed each night.
"The circuit itself has very unique setup characteristics, and we evaluated a few of those during the (post-race) test in Barcelona, as the last sector there has a lot of tight corners which are quite representative. The car felt very good, so I'm feeling optimistic and ready for this next race. If we can have everything running smoothly from the start, it should be a good weekend, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Two practice sessions for the Monaco GP were held on Thursday. In P1, Hamilton posted the quickest lap around this 3.34-kilometer, 19-turn street circuit in 1 minute, 18.750 seconds. He also topped the time charts in P2 with a lap in 1:17.192.
"I had a great first day here," Hamilton said. "Every year, it stuns me how fast we have to think out there, with so much information coming at you, and you have to be more reactive and agile than anywhere else. The target is always to get on the pace as quick as you can and to be very specific and precise in the set-up changes you make, so you don't go down the wrong path. "The balance (Thursday) was not far off, so we have been tuning that with our program. There are still some areas to improve on."
The second practice session was disrupted by rain, giving teams little time on the track.
Rosberg finished second in P2, 0.74 seconds behind Hamilton, and placed ninth in P1.
"We are very quick here again, so I'm quite confident for this weekend," Rosberg said. "I didn't get it all together (in the first two practice sessions), so the next practice session on Saturday morning will be very important."
Seventeen-year-old Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso was a surprise in P1, posting the second quickest lap, only 0.149 seconds behind Hamilton. In P2, Verstappen placed seventh.
"It was a good day, "Verstappen said. "I built it up slowly in the first practice because it was all new for me, but I felt really good in the car immediately. This gave me a lot of confidence and to finish the morning session in P2 made me feel great."
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, May 24. Race: Monaco Grand Prix. Site: Circuit de Monaco. Track: 2.075-mile (3.34-kilometer), 19-turn temporary street circuit. Start Time: 8 a.m. ET. Laps: 78. Miles: 161.887 (260.520 km). 2014 Winner: Nico Rosberg. Television: NBC.