Formula One will chalk up a notable first if Lewis Hamilton finishes first in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Never before has the sport seen six different winners in the first six races of a season and McLaren’s 2008 world champion has yet to open his 2012 victory account going into his favourite race.
Hamilton, winner in the Mediterranean principality in his title year, has every chance of standing on the top step of the podium as well as chalking up McLaren’s 150th pole after being denied it in Barcelona due to a fuel error.
British bookmakers William Hill have the 27-year-old Briton as their 3-1 favourite, with double world champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both at 5-1 for Red Bull and Ferrari respectively.
In this most unpredictable of seasons, with five different teams winning the first five races, anything could happen however.
“We are going into Monaco, something we’ve been very good at, we’ve won more Monacos than anyone else,” said McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
“We go there with the belief that we can win but anyone who makes predictions at the moment in this sport would be nuts.”
Despite his love of the tight and twisting street circuit, Hamilton has never started on pole in Monaco where overtaking is extremely tricky, even with KERS and moveable rear wings, and grid position crucial. He has however finished on the podium twice and in the points on four of his five visits.
“I think he is (a favourite),” said Whitmarsh.
“And he thinks that and that’s good and he’s in that frame of mind. He deserves it, there’s absolutely no doubt about it.
“We’ve got to work hard and make sure he’s got a good car, don’t make any mistakes and that he’s in a position to fulfil his potential at a circuit where he’s won in Formula Three, GP2 and Formula One.”
Hamilton has started two of this season’s races on pole and it would have been three had McLaren not made an error with their fuel calculation in qualifying in Barcelona. The team have also had a string of pit lane blunders that have cost them dear.
If Hamilton fails to win on Sunday, there are still plenty of others who could add to the list of different winners – starting with the Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
Lotus, formerly Renault, are celebrating the 500th race for the Enstone-based team and 2007 champion Raikkonen also has previous in Monaco. The Finn won there from pole in 2005 with McLaren and also started on the front row in 2003, 2008 and 2009.
Vettel’s Australian team mate Mark Webber was a Monaco winner in 2010 but has yet to stand on the podium this season and is hungry to rectify that.
Michael Schumacher, a five times winner in Monaco, is still chasing his first top three placing since he began his comeback with Mercedes in 2010 but team mate Nico Rosberg showed in China that the car is a winner.
If there is to be a repeat winner for the first time this year, then there are three Monaco masters lining up – last year’s winner Vettel, Hamilton’s team mate Jenson Button who triumphed in 2009 and Alonso, who won with Renault in 2006 and McLaren in 2007.
Rosberg grew up and went to school in the principality and knows every twist and turn by heart while Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, surprise winner in Spain to hand Williams their first triumph in nearly eight years, cannot be ruled out either.
A 500-1 outsider before his Circuit de Catalunya heroics, Maldonado has always gone well at Monaco in F1 and GP2 and his odds have now been slashed to 14-1.