As has become the tradition in Monaco, Friday Practice takes place on a Thursday. Mercedes struggled in the afternoon session while Sebastian Vettel set an impressive place. There were also multiple scrapes with the barriers and a few surprise names mixing with the front-runners. Read about all of the action in Lights Out’s Thursday Report!
While nineteen of the twenty drivers have only brought one set of Soft tyres here, McLaren have supplied Jenson Button with two sets, in order to get him up to speed with extra running in the First Practice session. The Super Soft and Ultra Soft compounds are the other tyres supplied by Pirelli this weekend. It is expected to be a one-stop race on Sunday.
It was a dry start to Thursday in Monte Carlo. Valtteri Bottas was the first to set competitive times – a 1:15.408 was his fastest after three laps. A 1:15:537 was the fastest time seen here in First Practice last year, so the Mercedes driver proved the pace of the 2017 cars by beating that within ten minutes of the session starting.
While Lewis Hamilton slotted into fourth, Red Bull impressed in the early stages with their two drivers looking to be very much on the pace and just two tenths away from Bottas’ time. However Bottas’ time was set on the Super Soft tyres, while the Red Bull times were set on Ultra Soft. Ferrari then threw their gauntlet down with a 1:14.289, again on the Ultra Soft tyres. Toro Rosso also impressed with Daniil Kvyat setting the second fastest time, and Carlos Sainz setting the fourth fastest time. Both were on the Super Soft tyres, so it appears that the Italian team have impressive pace here this weekend. Mercedes then re-emerged and took back the top two places on Ultra Soft tyres, with a gap of eight tenths back to the leading Ferrari driver. Hamilton’s new fastest time was faster than the 2016 pole time.
Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel all scraped the barrier at the Swimming Pool complex. but did no damage to their cars. Romain Grosjean had an off at the first turn due to a lock-up and ran down the escape road before rejoining the track.
Kvyat was the first driver to fall victim to the new kerb at the Swimming Pool complex. He avoided being launched into the barrier despite bouncing across the track.
For Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon, they completed their first ever laps of Monaco this morning. This showed in the early stages of the opening session. As their team-mates set times competitive enough to be inside the top five, Stroll and Ocon’s times were good enough for only for the bottom half of the timing screen. Ocon soon improved however, setting an impressive 1:14.4 – faster than last year’s pole time. He was just four tenths off the pace of his team-mate. Stroll, on the other hand, seemed to struggle more. He was a full second slower than Felipe Massa.
Marcus Ericsson’s practice session was ended early due to a gearbox issue. He failed to set a time in the session. Nico Hulkenberg also failed to set a time in the session due to mechanical issues:
“We made progress in the afternoon after a morning where I wasn’t put through my paces but my team mechanics had all the work to do. There were no issues for me in the afternoon however we were a bit behind where we should have been by missing the earlier track time. I focussed on assessing parts and set-up more than going all out for the fastest time possible, so there’s more in the bag for Saturday.”
Lewis Hamilton finished the session quickest, with Sebastian Vettel two tenths off the ultimate pace in second and Max Verstappen in third.
Full Result from Free Practice One:
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.346|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.429|
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+0.686|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India||+0.776|
|9||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||+0.908|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India||+1.000|
|19||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||No Time|
|20||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||No Time|
The clouds gathered above the Monaco circuit ahead of Second Practice. Nico Hulkenberg and Marcus Ericsson were among the first drivers on track in the afternoon as they looked to make up for the time they lost in the morning.
Esteban Ocon hit the wall just after the hairpin. It was certainly the hardest hit of the weekend so far, but it wasn’t enough to do much damage to the Force India car and the Frenchman was able to continue on his way around the lap. Ericsson then had a big moment on the exit of Casino. He clipped the barrier with his left rear tyre, and was lucky to not end his afternoon running there and then. He returned to the Sauber garage as the team carried out precautionary checks on his car.
Jolyon Palmer’s afternoon ended early. He pulled up to the side of the track at Massenet with smoke emitting from the rear of his RS17.
“Monaco’s all about building momentum and getting the laps in, so in that regard it was a positive morning but a less positive afternoon. There’s certainly more pace to come from me and the car so I’m very eager to get back out on track, although we have to wait a day longer for FP3 and qualifying here. Obviously the afternoon was unfortunate but there’s still a lot of potential for the weekend ahead.”
Daniil Kvyat was on the pace early on in the session, setting the fastest ever lap seen around the streets of Monaco. His 1:13.331 was beaten by Ricciardo as the lap record continued to tumble down into the low 1:13s. Half-way through the session, the top six cars were separated by just three tenths of a second. Neither Mercedes driver featured in that top six.
Sebastian Vettel was on a fast lap, but was hampered by jumping the chicane after the tunnel. He certainly improved on his next lap – going a massive five tenths quicker than anyone else. His time would not be beaten by anyone but himself for the remainder of the session.
The session was Red Flagged with 35 minutes remaining as Lance Stroll collided with the barriers at Casino Square, causing major damage to his FW40. The Canadian says he’s happy with how his day went, despite his crash.
“I’m going to look at the little areas that I need to improve on for Saturday – corner eight [Portier] and the last corner are the two places I really need to improve on. It really pisses me off, because every time I play the PlayStation game, it’s always those corners that I couldn’t get right, and in reality it’s still those two corners! So that’s the focus for Saturday, a bit more time in the car in FP3 and still build up to a few parts of the track.”
Jenson Button was left unimpressed by some of the driving during the session, exclaiming on the radio: “People still drive like ****s, nothing’s changed!” Button finished the session less than four hundredths slower than his team-mate and was pleased with how he performed.
“It was funny when I did the install lap this morning, I had a little giggle to myself. Have I missed it? No, but when you jump in the car, you definitely enjoy the moments that you have. I’ve really enjoyed practice, both the long and short runs. FP2 was a bit of a struggle to really find my feet with the car. I’m braking so much later than what I’m used to here and carrying so much speed into the corners. Adjusting to that takes time, so with another day with the engineers and a look through the data, I’m confident that I can improve for Saturday.”
Mercedes were off the pace in the afternoon session. Valtteri Bottas believes it’s a result of a set-up change that went in the wrong direction. He admits the team have some work to do to challenge for pole position on Saturday.
“We made some changes for FP2, some mechanical changes, and went in the wrong direction – Lewis as well. We definitely struggled. We know how to fix, but other cars are looking good as well. We can’t be too happy as a team with P8 and P10. Everything was looking okay from FP1, but we tried to help the balance and went wrong. We adjusted at the end of FP2 and it felt better, but the tyres were old by then. So we learned a lot – but we need to work hard to come back to the front.”
Vettel’s blistering pace seems to suggest that Ferrari will be the team to beat this weekend. It’s too early to rule Red Bull out yet, too, and of course Mercedes can never be discounted. It looks like Toro Rosso and Force India will make up the final four places in Q3 on Saturday.
Full Result from Free Practice Two:
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.487|
|4||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+0.611|
|5||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||+0.680|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.766|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1.079|
|15||Esteban Ocon||Force India||+1.373|
Nicky Haldenby is a freelance writer from Scarborough, England. After graduating from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its fourth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations, and sister site GPDestinations, where he shares regular race previews and articles focussed around the latest in Formula 1 calendar and venue news. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky can also be heard regularly as a guest on various Formula 1 radio shows and podcasts.