The F1 Monaco GP practice sessions on Thursday gave a small picture of whats to come with Mercedes ahead while Alexander Albon enjoyed a good lap and minor hiccup with Haas.
The special Monaco GP has FP1 and FP2 take place on a Thursday with no track action for F1 on Friday. It was a ceremonious start by Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton leading the way but Valtteri Bottas giving a tight fight as both ended up well ahead of Ferrari.
“We made some small tweaks over the two sessions and during the sessions as well, but I’ve been quite happy with the set-up,” said Hamilton. “Every year we come back here, it gets faster and you really notice it when you’re going past the barriers.”
For Bottas, who has had a difficult time at Monaco previously, the Finn felt good overall but said he needs small tweaks in the set-up to eke out more performance. While the drivers had positive note, the team felt they couldn’t get enough data due to traffic.
Mercedes Andrew Shovlin lamented the traffic especially on long runs but hopes it doesn’t hamper their Sunday. At the same time, Ferrari were slightly downbeat as they were left chasing for the right window to extract the best tyre performance.
While Sebastian Vettel was up there but the German didn’t get the 100% confidence. “We tried a lot of things, they didn’t really work so not that productive,” he said. “Overall we are struggling a bit, obviously lacking a bit of pace compared to Mercedes.
“We are struggling a bit to get the tyres to really work. It’s a bit of everything, so not exactly what you’d like around here. You’d like to know what the car is going to do so you can anticipate a bit more. But I’m sure come Saturday things should calm down.
“Maybe it’s a bit warmer as well, could help us.” Teammate Charles Leclerc couldn’t get set his best lap in the second session but overall felt that the team is out of reach from Mercedes, who looked much better with their slow-speed corner advantage.
Meanwhile, their third rival Red Bull Racing had a mixed run too especially with debris hindering Max Verstappen‘s run in FP2. The Dutchman revealed that they ‘had a water leak after some debris flew into the air box and damaged one of the radiators’.
Even with a clear run, both Verstappen and Pierre Gasly ruled out fighting with Mercedes for pole but they have firm eyes on Ferrari to secure the second row if possible. The Frenchman had a positive start to his weekend as gets more comfortable with RB15.
While the headlines go to the senior team mostly, Toro Rosso‘s Alexander Albon sprung in a surprise with a fifth place finish in FP2 in his F1 run in Monaco, with the Thai racer attributing it to getting the tyre in the right window with the lap he managed to set.
“It was a good day for us, it’s really fun out there and I like the track a lot,” he said. “I think we got the car in the right window, now we just need to study what we’ve learnt from today, so we can fine-tune the car and get ready for Saturday.
“We made a couple of adjustments for the afternoon session and I like how the car feels. We’re cautious that other teams will improve for Saturday but finishing in the top five is a nice feeling.” Teammate Daniil Kvyat found himself outside the Top 10 though.
Also having a better run along with Albon were the two Alfa Romeo Racing drivers with Kimi Raikkonen inside the Top 10 in both sessions while Antonio Giovinazzi – on his first time in Monaco – did rather well with 12th and eighth respectively.
It was satisfaction for both and the team. If Alfa Romeo gets a Top 10 break, their challengers look to be Haas mostly as the American team had a solid day in the end despite the black flag incident which they handled it very professionally.
There was a telemetry issue as they lost all data from both the cars with no radio contact as well. The had pit boards out but neither Romain Grosjean nor Kevin Magnussen saw it. The team then got the FIA involved, who showed them black flag to call them in.
The IT issue was then solved with both managing nearly 20 minutes run towards the end of the FP1 session. “This morning we had some issues with our IT equipment and we couldn’t run for a while,” said Guenther Steiner at the end of the day.
“It was all sorted, but a lot of people read a lot more into the black flags than there actually was. We still managed to get out with about 20 minutes left in FP1. FP2 was pretty good. We ran a lot of laps, we didn’t have any issues.
“Everything was up and running again. The car seems to be competitive.” Meanwhile, Magnussen added: “We missed out on a few high-fuel laps, but we got them in FP2, so it wasn’t too bad of a Thursday. The car feels good in low-fuel, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Moving on to Renault, while the standings show otherwise, the team as well as Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg seemed reasonably happy with their trouble-free day. Both feel confident of good results after the day was spent largely on data gathering.
At the same time, McLaren‘s Carlos Sainz suffered a powertrain issue which curtailed his morning run as he was left with only FP2 to do as much he could. Teammate Lando Norris ran OK but both ended up outside the Top 10 in both the Monaco practice sessions.
For Racing Point and Williams, it was not the best of days, especially for the former who seemed to be lost at the moment as neither of the drivers could show good pace with Lance Stroll majorly struggling than Sergio Perez, who says Q3 will be difficult.