Nico masters Monaco in FP2
Nico Rosberg extended his advantage over the opposition and team-mate Lewis Hamilton in Free Practice Two in Monaco. More crucial however, was the improved long run pace of the Mercedes – giving the three-pointed star it’s best opportunity of victory so far in 2013.
The ensuing break between FP1 and FP1 gave McLaren an opportunity to reflect on the progress of their new front wing and Red Bull a chance to rectify a peculiar brake issue – not something conducing to installing confidence around the narrow confines of Monaco.
A change of direction at slow speed seemed odd for the RB9 considering their reasonably strong sector three pace at Barcelona, possibly indicating some initial high fuel load runs. Nevertheless, Sebastian Vettel’s mechanics spent the early part of FP2 making near wholesale changes to the rear-end of his car.
Despite going provisionally quickest, Sergio Perez’s McLaren looked visibly sluggish around the swimming pool section; the Mexican employing wide arcs to his steering inputs rather than the usual wrist-flicking agility expected through the high speed section.
Supersofts would also be tested for the first time this weekend during the closing stages of FP2, but just how the marbles would affect the outer extremities of the incapacious track. As it stood, the super softs held an initial one second advantage over the soft compound Pirelli’s. A decision of China proportions could be dawning on teams debating to go hard in qualifying.
Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed the Maranello outfit would be concentrating on long runs during the second session, belying the fact that his lead driver Fernando Alonso had just gone quickest.
Again the Mercedes looked cursively quick, with Rosberg having the edge over his team-mate Hamilton in the final sector. Grosjean built on his strong FP1 form by running an early second to Alonso.
Kimi Raikkonen chose this session to mount his first serious attack of the weekend by jumping to the top of the order with a mid 1.15 second lap; the Finn’s now familiar strategy of soaking up data during the first session continuing to pay dividends. It was to be short-lived however, as Rosberg expectedly displaced Kimi at the head of the time totem half an hour into FP2.
Grosjean brought out the yellows after carrying too much pace into St. Devote, locking up and understeering into the barrier – ripping the left-front off the Lotus for his efforts. To lose this amount of time around Monaco could be disastrous for the Swiss-Frenchman as getting dialled in carries far more bearing around the Principality than most tracks on the Formula One Calendar.
Erring on the side of caution, the session was stopped at roughly half-time to repair kerb damage at the swimming pool (pins having come loose from the rumble strips). The opportunity was also taken to remove Grosjean’s stricken Lotus.
As the session restarted, the Mercedes’ of Rosberg and Hamilton were separated by three-tenths at the top of the order. But the red-flags did compromise Webber and Alonso, who were about to set quick times. In the rush to set a time, Alonso came across a slow-moving Raikkonen at Rascasse – Fernando jumping on the anchors and doing well to avoid Kimi, albeit destroying his own lap in the process. Fernando was spectacular around Monaco, throwing his Ferrari around in the same manner that caught him out during practice in 2010. Massa too was sliding his car similarly to Gerhard Berger in 1995.
Webber was to move up to fourth on the timesheets, six tenths behind the ultimate pace but also the same margin ahead of his team-mate Vettel.
One hour in and the race simulations began, with Rosberg in particular instantly lapping six-seconds slower than his best time. Seven laps later and the times dropped off around a second, but then stabilised. Certainly the Mercedes appeared to be using its tyres a lot more economically than two weeks ago – an ominous sign considering their one-lap pace. But you could never discount Mark Webber, who’s late long run pace was startling. Vettel meanwhile was struggling with balance issues.
Quickest of all on the long runs was Raikkonen, who blew everyone away by over a second with a 1:18 second lap. This was matched by Massa, but the Brazialian was slightly out of sync with the opposition.
Further down the order, the Marussia were displaying strong long run pace over their direct opposition at Caterham. Considering Caterham’s recent up-turn in form, the lower tier battle was still well and truly on.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.
|1||N Rosberg (GER)||Mercedes||1’14.759|
|2||LC Hamilton (GBR)||Mercedes||1’15.077|
|3||F Alonso (ESP)||Ferrari||1’15.196|
|4||F Massa (BRA)||Ferrari||1’15.278|
|5||M Webber (AUS)||Red Bull||1’15.404|
|6||KM Räikkönen (FIN)||Lotus||1’15.511|
|7||R Grosjean (FRA)||Lotus||1’15.718|
|8||J Button (GBR)||McLaren||1’15.959|
|9||S Vettel (GER)||Red Bull||1’16.014|
|10||P di Resta (GBR)||Force India||1’16.046|
|11||A Sutil (GER)||Force India||1’16.349|
|12||S Perez (MEX)||McLaren||1’16.434|
|13||N Hülkenberg (GER)||Sauber||1’16.823|
|14||P Maldonado (VEN)||Williams||1’16.857|
|15||E Gutiérrez (MEX)||Sauber||1’16.935|
|16||D Ricciardo (AUS)||Toro Rosso||1’17.145|
|17||JE Vergne (FRA)||Toro Rosso||1’17.184|
|18||V Bottas (FIN)||Williams||1’17.264|
|19||J Bianchi (FRA)||Marussia||1’17.892|
|20||C Pic (FRA)||Caterham||1’18.212|
|21||M Chilton (GBR)||Marussia||1’18.784|
|22||G van der Garde (NED)||Caterham||1’19.031|
Trent Price is an amateur race driver, former V8 race coach and FIA Accredited journalist from Melbourne, Australia. A former Race Editor for GP Week and contributor for ESPN, Trent is now the Editor of the WEC/Formula E magazine E-Racing; www.e-racingmag.com