Monaco Practice 1: Brimming with confidence, Alonso strikes first
24 May, 2012
May 24 (Apex) At the very top of his game, Fernando Alonso was brimming with confidence as he waltzed the Ferrari F2012 around the streets of Monte Carlo to claim top spot on the timing sheets after the first free practice session of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
With about 15 minutes left in the session the Spaniard – sporting a flashy gold and white special edition Monaco helmet – unleashed a flurry of fast laps, in a display of supreme control and confidence around the unforgiving, Armco lined street circuit and went top of the timing screens, and soon thereafter went even faster with a best lap of all; 1 minute 16.265 seconds. This was well faster than last year’s best in the same session, and 0.365 seconds up on his closest rival in the morning session.
The reds will be encouraged by the fact that beleaguered Felipe Massa was able to run within half a second (or so) of his teammate’s best on his way to the sixth fastest time.
Romain Grosjean had never driven an F1 around the Monte Carlo streets, but this did not faze the Frenchman as he set the pace from early on, only to be dispatched from top spot by Alonso. nevertheless the Lotus E20 looked pretty handy and Grosjean factored himself in as one to watch for the race.
A former winner in GP2 at Monaco, Grosjean was in his element on ‘home’ turf, “I like Monaco, it’s good fun. The car is going well at the moment so let’s see what we can do later on. It’s important to have a car that you are confident with and work every single detail because it makes such a big difference.”
It was quite the opposite for teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who did an installation lap and that was that. The Iceman’s E20 was subsequently stripped as the steering issue, which haunted them in the early races, appears to have struck again. As the team toiled, Raikkonen twiddled his thumbs, visibly aggravated by missing out on precious track time on the most challenging circuit on the calendar. Interestingly Raikkonen was using a James Hunt replica helmet.
Also showing hot pace, and no apparent ill effects of his qualifying crash at the same venue last year, was Sergio Perez in the Sauber C31. His best was 0.446 off the top time and a quarter second up on teammate Kamui Kobayashi who ended the session seventh fastest. The pair looking strong early on.
Yet to win this season and top candidate to make it six from six is Lewis Hamilton, who ended the morning fourth fastest in the McLaren MP4-27 and best of the Mercedes powered brigade, with teammate Jenson Button eighth on the timing screens almost half a second down Hamilton’s best.
A mere 0.013 seconds down on Hamilton was Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldonado who has an impressive Monaco CV in the junior categories, despite a crash here in 2005. He ended the 90 minutes fifth fastest as the Williams again showed impressive pace. Bruno Senna, two seconds down on his teammate, was 17th on the timing sheets.
Somewhat subdued in the early session was reigning world champion and last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel who was ninth fastest in the Red Bull RB8. Teammate Mark Webber was 13th. The pair will be aiming for a hat-trick of Monaco wins on Sunday, which has not happened since Ayrton Senna won five in a row for McLaren a decade ago.
Up next – ninth and tenth respectively – were the Mercedes AMG duo with Nico Rosberg fractionally faster than five times Monaco winner Michael Schumacher.
A special mention of Narain Karthikeyan who ended the session twentieth, out pacing both the Marussia drivers and his own vastly experienced teammate Pedro de la Rosa.
There was some drama at the very end of the session when the Renault engine in Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham blew up in spectacular fashion entering the tunnel. Session over as a thick pall of smoke engulfed the track.
Still early days at Monaco, but it is always vital to get the weekend off to a good start as everything always seems very rushed at the Principality. Thus Ferrari will be pleased with the pace of their car, while the likes of Lotus, Sauber, Williams and McLaren all look potent. Great weekend ahead folks…
Subbed by AJN.
Monaco Free Practice 1 – Friday, 24 May 2012
|9||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:17.222||0.957||14|
|12||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:17.631||1.366||18|
|13||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:18.106||1.841||14|
|16||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:18.302||2.037||16|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:22.423||6.158||15|
|24||9||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||No time||1|
- Dennis: Some people lost sight of what the objective is
- Massa critical of slow F1 medical response after Monaco crash
- Alonso scoffs at reports of Ferrari criticism directed at him
- Grosjean: What do you want? That we all line up and don’t compete?
- Raikkonen: I don’t feel any different now, Perez f#cked up our race
- Perez: The manoeuvres I did were right, I did nothing stupid
- McLaren: We’re fully behind Checo as long as he keeps developing
- Mercedes should ban Hamilton’s dog says Watson
- Lotus boss Lopez defends Grosjean’s Monaco madness
- Salo says error prone Grosjean will hurt someone else or himself