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Monaco GP could feature a sixth different winner this year

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Formula One is experiencing one of its finest starts to a season in 2012.

There have been five different drivers and constructors that have won in as many grand prix this season.

Two of those drivers became first-time race winners. Nico Rosberg from Mercedes picked up his maiden F1 victory in the April 15 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, while Williams' Pastor Maldonado claimed his inaugural win in the May 13 Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

"It's really special to win, especially the first one," Maldonado said. "But for sure, it is going to be difficult now. The gaps and the team levels are so close, so anything can make the difference. We need to put everything together to make a step forward, and I need to say that Williams are doing a very good job at the moment."

McLaren's Jenson Button won the March 18 season-opener in Australia, and Fernando Alonso from Ferrari took the checkered flag one week later in Malaysia. Two-time defending F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull earned his first victory of the season on April 22 in Bahrain.

Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, contested on the world famous streets of Monte Carlo, is round six on this year's calendar.

Could we see a sixth different driver and possibly another constructor win this weekend?

Lewis Hamilton from McLaren has yet to win this year, while Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are close to giving Mercedes a victory.

Who knows. Either Kamui Kobayashi or his Sauber teammate, Sergio Perez, might stun the racing world by winning the Monaco GP.

But Maldonado and Williams may surprise everyone by becoming the first repeat winners in F1 this season.

"We will certainly do our best," Maldonado said. "Our package is definitely getting better, and although we don't have the quickest car right now, we are improving very quickly. I have always liked Monaco, and after [winning the Spanish Grand Prix], I am certainly full of confidence."

But a win at Monaco might be a tough task for Williams. The team had its Spanish GP victory celebration quickly interrupted when a fire broke out in their garage area at Circuit de Catalunya. The fire caused extensive damage to the team's equipment, particularly with Senna's car. Senna was involved in an early-race collision with Mercedes' Michael Schumacher.

"After the fire, we've been working so hard to rebuild everything," Maldonado said. "The guys did a pretty good job, because we are ready to race, with everything we need to get the maximum. And I need to say that the guys have been working full days to have everything ready for this race, so great job for them."

Vettel is the defending winner of the Monaco GP. In last year's race, Vettel, who started on the pole, overcame an early-race pit-road blunder when his crew was not fully prepared for his stop. The young German pitted only once during the 78-lap race. He traveled the last 62 laps around the tricky 2.075-mile (3.34-kilometer) street circuit on prime tires. He held off Alonso and Button in a fierce battle for the lead during the closing laps.

"It's something special to race in Monaco," Vettel said. "It's tight and there's no room for error. It's rough and, as it is a street circuit, the road surface is uneven, so you get shaken in the car, and there is no room for mistakes."

Monte Carlo has been one of the most difficult circuits, where overtaking is virtually impossible. Track position for the Monaco GP is key, since the pole sitter for this race has won it in six of the last seven years. Hamilton won it from the third starting spot in 2008.

Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, May 27. Race: Monaco Grand Prix. Site: Circuit de Monaco. Track: 3.340 km (2.075 miles) 19-turn temporary street course. Start Time: 8 a.m. (et). Laps: 78. Miles: 161.887 (260.520 km). 2011 Winner: Sebastian Vettel. Television: Speed.

05/23 18:25:50 ET


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