MONACO (Reuters) - One winning streak ended with a bang for Nico Rosberg in Spain but Monaco’s tight, metal-fenced streets could see the continuation of another remarkable run for the Formula One championship leader on Sunday.
Only one man — triple world champion Ayrton Senna — has won more than three times in a row in the Mediterranean principality’s showcase race but Rosberg is on the cusp of stepping up alongside the late Brazilian.
The Mercedes driver, whose hopes of an eighth successive win ended at the previous race in Barcelona when he and triple world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton collided on the opening lap while fighting for the lead, completed his hat-trick last year.
Four wins would still be one behind the Brazilian, who won five in a row and six in total, but still a sequence that multiple champions like Graham Hill, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher never managed.
Monaco is a home race for most of the drivers but even more so for Rosberg, the German-born son of Finland’s 1982 world champion Keke, who grew up and went to school there and this time returns in the form of his life.
“I have memories from every corner going right back to my school days and I always have great support there from my family, my friends and the fans, which gives you that extra boost through the weekend,” he said.
“It’s been amazing to win there for the past three years — but I know it will be tough to repeat that with Lewis, the Ferraris and the Red Bulls all so strong now.”
Hamilton has not won since he took his third world championship in Texas last October, and the collision at the Circuit de Catalunya left him 43 points behind the German with 16 races remaining, but he is still the bookmakers’ favorite.
Monaco — the glamor highlight of the season — is also special for him, a race the boyhood Senna fan has always loved, and he needs to start reeling in Rosberg as soon as possible.
“Barcelona was the worst feeling but, like I always say, the true test is how you get back up when you’ve been knocked down,” said the Briton, who won in Monaco with McLaren in 2008.
“It was a tough moment for all of us after the race but it’s now chapter closed and looking ahead to Monaco. It’s an incredible feeling making a car dance through those streets, one of the purest thrills you can have in a racing car.
“I’m approaching this weekend with only one result in mind.”
Ferrari and resurgent Red Bull can hope to be contenders as well at a track where outright engine power matters less than driveability. The new ultrasoft Pirelli tires, making their debut, could also help.
Both the current Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen — second in the standings and 39 points off the pace — have won in Monaco before, but not for the Italian team, whose last victory there was with Schumacher in 2001.
Red Bull, whose Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo set the race lap record last year, had already targeted Monaco as their best chance of a victory before 18-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen won in Spain on his debut with the team.
“The trend now is we’re coming stronger and stronger,” said Ricciardo. “Monaco is for me the best circuit to drive one... there’s no circuit on the calendar that gives me that same feeling, that same adrenaline and that feeling of wanting more.”
Editing by John O'Brien