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Monaco Practice: Hamilton still strong, Alonso best in rainy Monaco

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Howard, May 22, 2014.

  1. Howard

    Howard
    Staff Emeritus | F1 Engineer Premium Member

    The circuit of Monte Carlo, located in the streets of all-luxurious and captivating Monaco, has been for years (and will probably keep on being for some more) the most fantastic track in the world. The first two F1 practice sessions took place today, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso sharing the spotlight between them.

    As the Brit built on the previous races’ performances and achieved a first place in Fp1 lap times and was 2nd fastest in FP2, Fernando Alonso, in a slower but seemly improved Ferrari, was the man to beat in the second practice session, where rain made an appearance in the principality and cut the session short in laps for the drivers.

    This will be a day of mixed feelings for the Maranello ‘Scuderia’, as Alonso topped the FP2 charts and was 4th fastest in FP1, while Kimi Räikkönen, struggling with mechanical problems, lapped a second slower than the two Mercedes in FP1 and failed to put a competitive lap time to his name on FP2.

    The Spaniard, currently 3rd in the Driver standings, looked stronger today, comparing to the previous tests and race results. “Here in Monaco, the most important thing in practice is to do as many laps as possible, because it is a very special track and you need to have a good feeling from the car. Despite the rain reducing the amount of track time in the second session, we more or less managed to complete all our programme and, with or without a turbo, the complexity of this track remains the same, so doing well in qualifying will be crucial.

    “The increase in grip we found over the few laps we did with the Supersoft tyres leaves us in no doubt that this will be the tyre to use on Saturday afternoon, while for the race there is still a lot to learn as no one has done a long run. So we might have to improvise when it comes to strategy”, assessed Alonso in the end of FP2.

    As for Kimi Räikkönen, the first two practice sessions could have been a lot more useful. Despite the lack of competitive laps today, the Finn remains confident for Saturday:

    “Unfortunately, the bad weather affected this first day of practice and halved the possibility to complete the work we had planned. In the morning, on the dry track, we tried various set-up options, without encountering any particular problems, apart from a lack of grip at the front under braking. In the afternoon, we made a few changes to improve the balance of the car, but having waited almost an hour before being able to go out on track, a problem with the gearbox prevented me from completing the session. On Saturday we will try and make the most of the third free practice session to complete our programme for qualifying, which we know is the key factor here”.

    The Mercedes drivers also had reasons to celebrate and not so much, on each side of the garage. Hamilton, who arrives in Monaco in superb form with four wins in the last four GPs, was the fastest man on track in FP1 and was beaten only by Alonso in the second practice session.

    Nico Rosberg, however, was more than four seconds slower than Alonso in FP2, despite a good performance in FP1 where the German was 2nd fastest. A no-risk strategy, it looked, and Rosberg is still a happy man: “That was a very good day. It seems that we are looking very quick here again, although our main competitors seems to be a little closer to us than in Barcelona. I still need to find my perfect set-up so there is still some work for us to do tomorrow to get ready for the weekend. The conditions weren’t great this afternoon so I didn’t take any risks as there was nothing to learn on the wet parts of the track. Now I’m looking forward to Saturday, but first to our team barbeque tonight!”.

    Team director Toto Wolff also looked confident (but cautious enough) after the first two practice sessions in Monaco: “Thursday in Monaco is all about staying out of the barriers and letting the drivers dial themselves into the circuit, so they can get comfortable with the car. We have two Monaco specialists with Nico and Lewis, so we know that if we do our job as a team, they will deliver out on track. I am sure that we will have a very tough challenge from our rivals this weekend and, like always in Monte-Carlo, there will be no margin for error in any area”.

    F1′s reigning champion, Sebastian Vettel, seemed in good path to capitalise on the improvements achieved in the last races, with a 3rd and 5th place in today’s practice sessions. “Mercedes were very quick this morning and we see that usually, come Saturday, they are able to pick up their pace, so we’ll try to do the same. We potentially are a little bit closer here, but you know at the moment it’s all guessing. I think the big advantage on this track would be that there’s not that many straights, but we have to wait and see”, the German reckoned.

    While Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) was the surprise of the afternoon, with a 4th spot in the damp Monte Carlo track, the two Force Indias looked a bit stronger than the Williams and the McLarens in the battle for 4th best team today. Sergio Perez was slightly faster than his Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg on this occasion, and recognised the importance of a good result on Saturday:

    “The day was disturbed by the weather so the work we have done is quite limited. I feel quite happy with the car and we ran in the top eight all day so it’s been positive. That’s where we need to be aiming for Saturday because qualifying well here is so important. There are still quite a few unknowns because I did not manage to do any long runs or race preparation, but it’s the same for everyone”, the Mexican said.

    With the two first sessions completed, F1 now has a useful short break for any reajustments to strategy and car parts (as well as some yacht-partying), before Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions.

    FP3 is scheduled for Saturday, at 11:00 local time (10:00 GMT), with the Qualifying session taking place three hours later. The race will be held on Sunday, at 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT).

    Click here to view lap times on the blog.

    Report by @Carlos Eduardo Lopes
     
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