Monaco, 23 May – It’s part of the nature of Formula 1 and sport in general in the modern era, that what happens off the court, pitch or track can sometimes take on even more importance than the sport itself, with gossip, rumour and controversy dominating the headlines. However, on a beautiful day with clear skies and warm sunshine, the first time 22 Formula 1 dance around the track on the streets of the Principality of Monte Carlo provides a glorious reminder of what a fantastic sporting spectacle lies ahead over the rest of the weekend at this unique venue.
If this Thursday provided an interesting start to the sixth round of the World Championship, it was also a positive beginning for Scuderia Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa lining up in third and fourth places on this afternoon’s time sheet. In the morning session, the Spaniard was second and the Brazilian fourth and over the course of the three hours, the Ferrari duo completed a total of 127 laps, 65 for the Spaniard, three more than his team-mate. The two drivers had a trouble free day, both in terms of the F138s running reliably and because neither driver made contact with the barriers.
After qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, two weeks ago, Fernando said he wasn’t worried by the fact that Mercedes monopolised the front row of the grid, with their third straight pole position. The Ferrari man’s logic was that the silver cars’ race pace was not a match for several other cars including the F138s and he was more concerned with his direct title rivals, Vettel and Raikkonen. Fernando’s Catalunyan victory proved him right. However, if we have a repeat performance here on Saturday, dealing with the Mercedes on Sunday could be much trickier than in Barcelona, as overtaking is so difficult here. Today, Nico Rosberg sent out a warning shot, being quickest in both free practice sessions, the only man to dip below the 1m 15s barrier. And Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was second quickest.
Along with Fernando, Mark Webber is the only current driver to have won here twice – in 2010 and last year – and the Australian steered his Red Bull to fifth place on today’s last time sheet, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus. Now, the engineers face the usual task, the one undertaken on Fridays at all other races, of analysing the data and that work can continue tomorrow, as track action does not re-start until Free Practice 3 on Saturday morning. Traditionalists still refer to tomorrow here in Monaco as the “day off:” that stopped being the case several years ago, with every available moment spent trying to get the very most out of the cars in preparation for Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session.
Monaco GP – Let the games begin
Stefano Domenicali: “ In free practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, the priority is always to make the most of the time available to run on track: today we exploited all 180 minutes available and both Fernando and Felipe managed to complete a high number of laps, so as to gain confidence in this very unique track. In the morning, we concentrated on car set-up, adapting it to the slow and twisty corners that characterise the layout of this track. Here, one of the key factors is dealing with the traffic and that’s important right from Thursday. In the afternoon session, we worked on a comparison between the two compounds, gathering useful data which we will analyse tonight and tomorrow”.
Fernando Alonso: “It’s always nice driving at Monaco, even if it’s very demanding, because here more than anywhere, you need to do a lot of running to adapt to the track and, in more general terms, get used to a very special race. I am pleased that we managed to get through all our planned programme today, which can’t always be taken for granted here as anything can happen! Even if the feelings are positive and we got through the day without any problems whatsoever, we still don’t have a clear idea of the pecking order in the field. We will have to wait a bit to see where all our rivals really are, because here too, until Saturday, no one pushes a hundred percent: the barriers constitute too high a threat to take risks in the first free practice sessions. There’s not much time to do a tyre comparison here, we did only one and the results didn’t throw up any surprises: the Super Softs are a bit quicker and degrade more. All that remains now is to spend all the available time analysing the data we have gathered to try and find the best strategy for qualifying and the race”.
Felipe Massa: “The weekend has got off on the right foot, the car behaved well and I managed to find a good pace. I finished in the top five in both sessions, which is important in such an unpredictable event as the Monaco Grand Prix. However, we are aware that we still have much work to do. Now we will analyse all the data available to try and find the right direction to go in, because here it’s vital to have a car that is both competitive in qualifying and performs consistently in the race. Mercedes has shown that it is quicker and it will not be easy to get ahead of them in qualifying, but I am sure we have what’s needed to take the fight to them”.
|ALONSO – chassis 299||MASSA – chassis 300|
|First Session||P2||1:16.282||27 laps||P4||1:16.394||23 laps|
|Weather: air 23/24 °C, track 30/36 °C. Sunny|
|Second Session||P3||1:15.196||38 laps||P4||1:15.278||39 laps|
|Weather: air 22/23 °C, track 40 °C. Sunny|
Monaco GP – Silver and Red in the principality
Monaco, 23 May –The Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheet ahead of the Alonso-Massa red tandem at the end of the second free practice session today. Fernando was third in 1.15.196, which was 0.437 off Rosberg’s time. Massa was fourth with a 1.15.278.
Going into the traditional Monegasque “day off” tomorrow, the hierarchy in terms of what to expect in qualifying is not yet clearly defined. This session had to be red flagged after 37 minutes, so that the kerb on the outside of Turn 13 could be repaired. Many drivers, including Alonso and Massa were thus forced to pit, just as they were going for a quick time on the Supersoft tyre.
Fernando had a worrying moment half way through when he came into Rascasse corner to find Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber going slowly on the racing line. On a quick lap, Alonso managed to squeeze through a gap between the German and the barrier on the outside. After that, the Spaniard and Massa both set their best time using the Supersofts. In the last 30 minutes, the team concentrated on the usual long run tests, at the end of which Alonso had done 38 laps, with Massa doing 39.
Monaco GP – All very close
Monaco, 23 May – Nico Rosberg had the honour of topping the first Monaco Grand Prix timesheet of the weekend. He set the fastest time in the first free practice session of the sixth round of the World Championship, which as always here takes place on Thursday, with Friday being a day with no F1 track action. On this the most glamorous and exciting circuit on the calendar, the gaps between the front runners are all very close. Rosberg did a 1.16.195 in the Mercedes ahead of Fernando Alonso who took his Ferrari round in 1.16.282, with Romain Grosjean third for Lotus in 1.16.380. In the other F138, Felipe Massa was fourth with a time of 1.16.394. Both Ferrari men used just one set of the Soft tyre, the harder of the two compounds, while working on set-up, before ending the session with a few practice starts off the grid, as usual here in Monaco.