The second practice session for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix started at 2PM local time, meaning the assembled glitterati were suitably stuffed with canapes and champagne when the action began. Roused from their yachts by the unmistakable sound of V8 engines powering Formula One cars around the Monaco streets they were treated to a session topped by Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari. The Spaniard’s lap was nearly a second quicker than the one he recorded this morning. Having been quickest in practice 1 Alonso might now be starting to dream of his third victory at Monaco, and Ferrari’s first since 2001.
In what was a fairly uneventful session second quickest went to Nico Rosberg- who seems more comfortable in the Mercedes now that they’ve reverted to a shorter wheelbase- followed by Sebastien Vettel, Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher. Massa too seems to be back on the pace, with the softer tyre much more to Felipe’s liking than the harder compound that he’s been using since Australia.
In a top 10 that’s covered by less than three-quarters of a second there was yet more impressive driving from Robert Kubica, who continues to look like the only man capable of getting amongst the big four teams. He ended the second session 6th quickest having held the fastest time earlier in proceedings.
Lewis Hamilton was next, ahead of Adrian Sutil, whose Force India team have been talking up the possibility of a strong result this weekend. Sutil is something of a Monaco expert, and we wouldn’t be too shocked of he did pull something special off. Rounding out the top 10 were Jenson Button and Mark Webber, with the McLaren and the Red Bull speerated by just 1 thousandth of a second.
The teams spent much of the session working on race set-ups, and slight drizzle around the hour mark prevented any banzai laps, so it’s fair to say that we’re yet to get a clear idea of who will be on top come the weekend. Having dominated in Spain Red Bull look to be within closer reach in Monaco, with Mark Webber admitting that their car ‘isn’t really designed for the circuit’. However we know that Red Bull don’t tend to show their pace in practice, so it’d be premature to say they’re not going to be in contention. That said the competition does look like being closer.
Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen set the quickest lap of the new teams’ drivers, beating Lucas di Grassi in the Virgin by 3 tenths of a second. As expected the Hispania cars were the slowest on track, the Spanish squad’s handling issues are really being highlighted on the streets of Monaco. In fact GP2’s Monaco ace Pastor Maldonado recorded a practice time this morning that would have beaten both Hispania car’s times from practice 1 and Bruno Senna’s from practice 2. Maldonado is supreme on these streets, but it also highlights just how far off Hispania are- GP2 cars are not meant to be quicker than their big brothers in F1.
With the first two sessions complete, and a day off tomorrow, the drivers now have plenty of time to think about qualifying. It’s going to be tricky, with 24 cars attempting to set laps in Q1 on a short, tight and twisty circuit. There’s a fair chance someone will come a cropper, and we can guarantee there will be complaints from the frontrunners about the behaviour of the drivers in the tail-end cars.
With practice now 2-0 to Alonso it might be tempting to make him your man in Fantasy Grand Prix, but first ask yourself this: can you really rule out the Red Bulls? It’s still all to play for on the streets of Monte Carlo.