© FOTO ERCOLE COLOMBO
Monaco Grand Prix Practice – Ferrari
Monaco GP – Alonso’s Ferrari dominates the second session of practice
Monaco, 26 May – Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari topped the second session of free practice that has just finished on the streets of the principality of Monaco. With a best time of 1.15.123 the Spanish Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver dominated the 90 minutes available for the 24 cars on track on the opening day of Round 6 of the F1 world championship. The McLaren of Lewis Hamilton was second (1.15.228), with Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes third (1.15.321). The other 150° Italia of Felipe Massa came in sixth having completed 45 laps with a best of 1.15.781. This has been a good start to the weekend for the team, even if the track conditions can radically change from Thursday to Saturday, as is well known here at Monaco. Both drivers reported a good feeling in the car, which they ran with different fuel loads as they tried out the different tyre compounds including the super soft, which is making its debut in the Monaco race. As usual at Monaco the two Ferrari drivers finished the session with some practice starts on the grid. Now they have a day without track action ahead of them.
The protagonists of this competitive battle will return to the wheels of their cars on Saturday at 11am for the third and final session of free practice. Following after that comes the decisive appointment for qualifying.
Monaco GP – A good start…but not yet halfway there
One hundred and thirty five laps up and down the streets of the Principality, equivalent to 450 kilometres, culminating in the best two free practice sessions of the season. Maybe it’s down to the fact practice is on Thursday rather than Friday, maybe it was the tyres, or more likely, it’s the characteristics of the track, but up until now in 2011, a Ferrari has never set the best time of the day. However, results on the opening day of a race weekend must always be viewed with caution.
Fernando Alonso: “In Monaco it’s mainly a question of having a good feel for the car: the more the driver has, the harder he can push, lap after lap. It seems we are a bit more competitive than elsewhere, although one has to adopt the usual caution linked to the unknown factor of how much fuel the others were running. However, the reason is very simple in that here, the aerodynamics count for less and so we are suffering less. On a track with the lowest average speed, some weaknesses are hidden by other factors, such as the mechanical side and the engine. I immediately felt comfortable here, right from the morning, so I was able to push harder and harder, because the car was reacting well and I had confidence in it. I am pleased, but we know this is just the first day and that the Red Bulls could be hiding a bit, before coming out for Saturday’s qualifying. Saturday will be a much more stressful day because here, the slightest error carries a heavy penalty. We must try to take some risks, because we need to close the gap to the best. As for the tyres, I think that their performance is reasonably similar to what we saw in winter testing, even though temperatures are now much higher: compared to the other races, there is not such a big difference between the prime and the options, or at least that’s the initial impression.”
Felipe Massa: “I am reasonably happy with the car, even if there is still some oversteer, especially with the Supersoft. Compared to Barcelona, I reckon we will be better equipped to fight: it’s not like on other occasions when it was clear we could not get the tyres to work. There were moments when I was a bit on the limit, so that I even found myself brushing the barriers at least three times. I did a long run on the option to try and find its limit in terms of wear. Overtaking will be difficult, as usual at this circuit: but maybe thanks to the KERS it will be possible to overtake a car that is struggling with its tyres, although it will never be easy. Traffic? Here it’s impossible to avoid it: today I found myself in a position where I was holding up Fernando, but I had a McLaren ahead of me, which in turn had slowed me down.”
Pat Fry: “A good start to this very special weekend that takes place against this always incredible backdrop. Today we concentrated mainly on finding the best set-up for the car and on checking the behaviour of the two types of tyre that Pirelli has brought for this track, one of which, the Supersoft is making its debut at a race. From what we could see, the times are pretty consistent, but we know that the track here changes from Thursday to Saturday, so we cannot take anything for granted. This morning we checked a handful of minor aerodynamic updates – the 150º Italia is basically the same as it was at the Catalunya circuit – and then we tried to deliver Felipe and Fernando a balanced car in which they could have full confidence to push to the limit. Now we have a bit more time than usual to prepare as well as possible for qualifying and the race. There are some areas on which need to improve and we can, but from what we have seen today, at least it looks as though we are on the right road to being in the running.”
First session: air 26/27 °C, track 35/36 °C; sunny.
Second session: air 27 °C, track 44/42 °C; sunny.
Monaco GP – Light at the end of the tunnel
Monaco, 26 May – Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap of the day come the end of the first two free practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix. That statement has not been possible in any other session in any of the five previous race weekends. It’s a good sign and on the only circuit that boasts a tunnel, maybe the Spaniard’s performance could be seen as the light at the end of the tunnel that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has been searching for, for some time now. In the other 150º Italia, Felipe Massa also went well to post the sixth fastest time, just 65 hundredths slower than Fernando. In Monaco, everything is spectacular, even the free practice action and Felipe in particular had his car dancing sideways at times, perilously close to the unforgiving barriers that claimed a few victims today.
Given that the cars have just had a few days rest since racing in the Spanish Grand Prix, the reasons behind this apparent increase in competitiveness, even allowing for special Monaco set-ups adopted on the cars, are more down to the nature of the circuit and the type of tyres available from Pirelli this weekend. As the Ferrari drivers and management have explained endlessly, the main problem with the car is a lack of aerodynamic downforce, but this becomes less significant as the speed drops. On the twisty streets of the Principality, there are no fast straights or corners and therefore the weakness of the Ferrari is less on display. Add in the fact that it is far more suited to the soft and super soft Pirelli tyres and the reason for this sudden increase in performance is self-evident.
However, after a day away from track action tomorrow, the picture might not be so clear on Saturday come time for qualifying. Red Bull has dominated the season so far and there is no reason to think its cars won’t work well at all types of track. Lewis Hamilton was second fastest for McLaren, ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes, while Jenson Button was fourth for McLaren ahead of Sebastian Vettel.