Ferrari hasn’t won Monaco for 13 years and in reality the team is not likely to win this year, unless there is a major setback for Mercedes or a rain storm.
However, Fernando Alonso gave the team and its fans some cheer this afternoon, setting the fastest time in a disappointingly quiet afternoon session.
Rain between FP1 and FP2 meant that the track was wet at 1400hrs local time and it was over half an hour before any driver went out to do any laps. Meaningful running was limited to the last 20 minutes.
Teams had anticipated this and ran more laps in FP1 this morning to compensate, but there was very little opportunity to do high-fuel running on the faster supersoft tyres and some drivers didn’t even do a qualifying simulation, as the normal order of things was disrupted.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the day, in the morning session, just 3/100ths of a second faster than team-mate Nico Rosberg. This was two seconds slower than the fastest time in FP1 last year, reflecting the loss of downforce, especially from the exhaust-blown diffuser, but also the harder Pirelli tyres.
Some drivers found that it took six or seven laps to bring soft tyres up to their operating temperature, while the supersofts need a lap or two to come in.
This will have repercussions for qualifying on Saturday, where some drivers will find themselves questioning the best strategy for Q1; whether it is possible to get through on a set of soft tyres alone.
Due to the restricted running, Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery predicted a frantically busy final practice session as teams explore the potential of the supersoft tyre ahead of a qualifying session that more crucial at this track than at any other during the season.
“There has been little running on the supersoft tyre, which is what we would expect drivers to use in qualifying: one of the most important parts of the whole Monaco weekend,” he said. “It also means there is a lot of work for FP3 on Saturday morning, when the teams collect data for both different compounds on varying fuel loads to calculate their race strategies.
“However, tyre wear and degradation is less of a factor in Monaco than it is in other places, especially this year with all our compounds being slightly harder than last season,” he added. “Compared to all the other races, the teams have an extra day to look at the data, so there is plenty of opportunity to think about potential strategies.”
Alonso had split the two Red Bull cars in the morning session, Ricciardo in particular looking very confident at the wheel of his car. The Australian has had an excellent start to the season and arrives in Monaco in a very positive frame of mind after a podium in Spain.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen suffered a gearbox issue in the afternoon, which meant he did no meaningful laps, while Adrian Sutil lost time in the morning with an off into the barriers in the Sauber.
It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from today’s running but some observations would be that Mercedes has a very supple car which works well over the kerbs and clearly has excellent traction. The Red Bull looks more stiffly sprung over the kerbs, but has lots of grip.
The Lotus seems a bit of a handful, but there is a good lap time there if the driver is brave and confident. Williams and Force India may struggle to get sold top-10 starting slots for both drivers, but so much of the final lap time on Saturday is about confidence and all four drivers are capable of pulling a lap out of the bag.
There is no more rain forecast for the weekend, which is one of the main reasons why drivers didn’t bother too much about not being on track when the track was damp; there was little to be leaned for the weekend and plenty of risk of damaging parts for which they do not have many spares, such as the high downforce front wings.
MONACO GRAND PRIX, Free Practice 2
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m18.482s 15 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.901s +0.419s 12
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m19.017s +0.535s 15
4. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m19.351s +0.869s 14
5. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m19.421s +0.939s 9
6. Sergio Perez Force India 1m19.668s +1.186s 9
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m19.712s +1.230s 10
8. Jenson Button McLaren 1m19.721s +1.239s 16
9. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m19.779s +1.297s 11
10. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m20.230s +1.748s 16
11. Felipe Massa Williams 1m20.394s +1.912s 8
12. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m20.622s +2.140s 13
13. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1m20.811s +2.329s 8
14. Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1m20.977s +2.495s 7
15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m21.467s +2.985s 8
16. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m21.700s +3.218s 6
17. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1m21.924s +3.442s 6
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m21.937s +3.455s 13
19. Max Chilton Marussia 1m22.683s +4.201s 13
20. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m22.862s +4.380s 11
21. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1m23.164s +4.682s 6
22. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m45.509s +27.027s 4
Free Practice 1
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.271s 32 Laps
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m18.303s +0.032s 31
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m18.506s +0.235s 37
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m18.930s +0.659s 31
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m19.043s +0.772s 33
6. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m19.467s +1.196s 31
7. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m19.494s +1.223s 31
8. Sergio Perez Force India 1m19.666s +1.395s 29
9. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m19.789s +1.518s 29
10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m19.856s +1.585s 38
11. Jenson Button McLaren 1m20.033s +1.762s 35
12. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m20.118s +1.847s 33
13. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m20.207s +1.936s 33
14. Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1m20.241s +1.970s 38
15. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m20.260s +1.989s 36
16. Felipe Massa Williams 1m20.517s +2.246s 25
17. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1m20.736s +2.465s 18
18. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m20.914s +2.643s 37
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m21.310s +3.039s 27
20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1m22.063s +3.792s 40
21. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1m22.492s +4.221s 38
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1m25.817s +7.546s 7