Jenson Button set the fastest time in the second free practice session ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, but much of the afternoon was lost to rain showers, which also threaten the qualifying session on Saturday. Romain Grosjean was second with the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso next up.
The first session in the morning had shown that the Lotus and the Ferrari look competitive this weekend, with Alonso edging out Grosjean at the top of the time sheets. Grosjean’s Lotus team mate Kimi Raikkonen spent most of the morning in the garage, changing the steering geometry on his car and was playing catch up in the afternoon, so found the lack of dry running frustrating.
Button said after the session that he feels that once again the Lotus cars are the ones to beat, as was the feeling after the first day of running in Spain.
“The cars that look very fast to me are the Lotuses,” he said. “If you look at the runs, when they’re out, they’re very competitive, so I would say the Lotus is probably the car to beat this weekend.”
Heikki Kovalainen suffered an engine failure at the end of practice 1, on a Renault unit that had done two complete Grands Prix as well as several practice sessions. This left a trail of oil in the tunnel and brought a premature end to the session.
In the afternoon, the only dry running took place in the first 20 minutes, with Button managing to get in a run on the supersoft tyres. Of the top five only Maldonado had the chance to use the faster tyre as well. The pre-race estimates are that the supersoft will be around 0.6s per lap faster than the soft over a single lap in qualifying.
Many drivers took the opportunity to run on intermediate tyres when the track was wet to learn where the grip levels are in case Saturday does turn out wet as forecast. The track was very slippery, particularly in the braking zone for Mirabeau corner with both Williams, Massa and Kovalainen taking to the escape road. Kovalainen had to stop as he was unable to engage reverse gear to get back out.
Lewis Hamilton, many people’s favourite for the race victory, had a low key day, not troubling the top of the time sheets, but it’s clear that Lotus and Ferrari will contest the victory with McLaren and that Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldonado and the Red Bulls will be not far behind.
“I think the car is suiting the track pretty well and I love Monaco,” said Grosjean. “The car was looking good this morning and this afternoon – we are working in a good direction. Unfortunately it was a bit wet this afternoon and we couldn’t do all the programme we wanted to achieve but as we have a good baseline it shouldn’t be such a big deal. Let’s see what the weather will be like tomorrow and what we can achieve. I think that we are looking good in both conditions.”
Qualifying will be key, as always at Monaco. Apart from 2008 this race has been won from pole for most of the last decade. Rain would make that qualifying session a lottery, someone could luck out, someone else could lose out and Sunday is expected to be dry and warm, so a fairly normal race is in prospect.
But with a 71% chance of a safety car at Monaco, “normal’ is a relative term.
MONACO GRAND PRIX, Free Practice 2
1. Jenson Button McLaren 1m15.746 14 Laps
2. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m16.138s + 0.392 17
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m16.602s + 0.856 19
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m16.661s + 0.915 21
5. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m16.820s + 1.074 18
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m17.021s + 1.275 13
7. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m17.148s + 1.402 21
8. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m17.153s + 1.407 20
9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m17.293s + 1.547 9
10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m17.303s + 1.557 19
11. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m17.375s + 1.629 17
12. Paul di Resta Force India 1m17.395s + 1.649 19
13. Bruno Senna Williams 1m17.655s + 1.909 18
14. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m17.800s + 2.054 23
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m18.251s + 2.505 22
16. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m18.440s + 2.694 23
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m18.522s + 2.776 20
18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m18.808s + 3.062 24
19. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m19.267s + 3.521 23
20. Timo Glock Marussia 1m19.309s + 3.563 27
21. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m20.029s + 4.283 13
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m20.240s + 4.494 19
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m20.631s + 4.885 12
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m20.886s + 5.140 10