The margins at the top after FP2 were tight, and with qualifying crucial to a good result in Monaco, it meant a different outlook on preparations for the weekend than usual.
Bragging rights on the Friday before the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix belonged to Max Verstappen, who headed FP2 while chart leader Carlos Sainz crashed out in FP1 in session two.
Verstappen collected 1m12.462s Despite not having enough quality to adorn the timing boards in purple, Verstappen compiled a steady trio of splits to ensure he got the most out of his Red Bull RB19 throughout the lap. This carried him over the Ferraris of Sainz and Charles Leclerc, the former cutting off his seat by crashing into the inside wall on the exit from the pool section.
Sainz had set the pace in the first session, three-tenths ahead of compatriot Fernando Alonso, and was again among the front runners before producing a near carbon copy of teammate Leclerc’s qualifying accident at the Principality in 2021. Red flag delays mandatory simulations for the sessions race The late, but fast cleanup provided 12 minutes of continuous running at the end.
However, this affected the level of information teams could obtain, but as is often the case in Monaco, achieving the qualifying rounds was the priority.
Here’s everything we learned from Friday’s training in Monaco.
Diverting from the pool in FP2 didn’t do any good for Sainz
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Pictures
It may sound corny to say, but Monaco is one of the most punishing racetracks on the Formula One calendar, due to its close proximity to walls and tight corners. The two practice sessions that included red lights came as no surprise, since the practice provides an opportunity for teams and drivers to test the limits of their cars’ grip with the road.
FP1 featured a string of red flags, the first appearance to clean up the debris when Nico Hulkenberg hit the inside wall at the Nouvelle Chicane. The German detached the left rear tire from the rim, causing it to spin. He crawled back to the pits with little damage, but a brief lull in proceedings was deemed necessary.
Alex Albon’s crash at the end of the session was more costly, as he crashed at Sainte Devote as the session was drawing to a close and hit too much on the left side of Williams, also leading to an early FP1 finish.
With the fastest laps on the soft tyres, Red Bull’s advantage over Ferrari was largely evident from corner exits – especially at Casino Square and Portier
Sainz was the only red flag offender in FP2, when he got too close to the inside barrier at the La Piscine exit and broke his front-right suspension – leaving him no other choice but to crash straight into the wall. This cost him the chance to reprise his role at the top of the timesheets, and when the session started again a focus on long laps cemented the standings with Verstappen at the top.
The Spaniard had just ousted from second-fastest time to teammate Leclerc, who was struggling to “jump” aboard his Ferrari when dealing with low-speed cornering, where one wheel would go up during curb strikes. Sainz looked the more relaxed of the two during the Friday sessions, but his crash cost him the chance to make any race preparations.
Verstappen’s main time thus withstood any other tests, but the margins were thin between him and the Ferrari duo. It was expected that the Red Bull team would lose some of its advantage on the outskirts of the slow pace of the Monaco circuit. While that did happen, he kept his familiar table top ranking nonetheless.
Why qualifying will be more important than usual in Monaco
Line up on pole at the Monaco Grand Prix can unscientifically be described as 95% job done in pursuit of victory. Even in the era of smaller, narrower cars, the claustrophobic streets of Monte Carlo are notoriously unfavorable to overtaking in Formula 1, but the pole would add a separate level of prestige to this year’s event.
This is because the margins are very close between the teams this time around, due to the characteristics of each car on the grid, and using race speed to predict the race will ultimately lead to an unreliable narrative. Traffic negotiation in Q3 will be crucial, and will be one of the key factors in determining the grid for Sunday’s race.
With the fastest laps on the soft tyres, Red Bull’s advantage over Ferrari was largely evident from the corner exits – especially at Casino Square and Portier. The SF-23 is a match under acceleration and managed to nail any losses in time as it increased speed, but it wasn’t able to flip that flaw in those particular areas.
Verstappen overtook Leclerc to pole position in FP2, and proved stronger on corner exits
Photo by: Sam Bagnall/Motorsport Images
As has been the case throughout the season so far, the Ferraris are particularly strong under braking, and both Leclerc and Sainz have been imbued with the confidence to jump off the throttle later than their rivals, but this seems to hold them back a bit on the exit. But margins are good, and Ferrari has the advantage in the circuit’s opening stretch and across the Mirabeau section into Portier.
Aston Martin, saddled with hopes of Fernando Alonso’s surprise win at Monaco, was weaker than its rival teams in two of the track’s slowest parts – the Loews hairpin and the Nouvelle Chicane. The AMR23 also has its strengths under traction, but drivers seem to lack confidence on slower sections of the track. Throttle effects show a small point at the Nouvelle Chicane as Alonso tries to force the car to act.
Mercedes is slightly behind the top three, although there is cautious optimism within the camp about its new upgrades. Although the Monaco will of course hide many of the subtleties of the new updates, drivers have reported greater grip on the brakes thanks to the revisions with the front suspension.
There were cornering struggles with Mirabeau, Herbin and Portier, and a lack of confidence in the first corner put Lewis Hamilton and George Russell slightly behind the Red Bulls and Ferrari, but overnight adjustments might progress. opportunities to alleviate those symptoms.
Ferrari has a very real chance of drawing first blood by the end of the Saturday sessions if the drivers can avoid smearing red paint on the barriers
The race on the medium tire fell short, and Mercedes managed to shine the most in this context. Hamilton’s laps were within a tenth of Verstappen’s time, but with such a small sample size there is little chance of them being compared afterwards. Alonso has done his long runs on a range of soft tyres, and so seems incomparable with the medium, which is expected to be the preferred tire for much of Grand Prix racing.
The Alps have been surprisingly strong during their long runs over the medium, Esteban Ocon’s times besting those of Verstappen’s, while Gasly has occasionally been on a similar football field. Again traffic seemed to be a differentiating factor, and the tendency for trains to form up during the race would largely make the pace in the long run very situational.
If it comes to qualifying, which is likely to prevent any threat of bad weather over the weekend, Ferrari have a very real chance of drawing blood first by the end of the Saturday sessions if the drivers can avoid smearing the barriers with red paint.
Verstappen could ruin that party, but Ferrari’s fortune is in her hands. Perhaps this is something that even the most ardent typhus would fear…
What do drivers say
Can Leclerc muscle in the fight for the pole?
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Sports Pictures
Verstappen: “I think the FP1 was quite tough, I wasn’t really happy with the car riding on the pavements and bumps. The FP2 was already much better, and the car felt more competitive. Compared to the Ferrari especially we still lacked a bit in the overall ride of the car, how does it handle Barriers and bumps. Drops on the cam. That’s still something we need to work on tomorrow because you can see they’re very, very close and knowing you’re going to max it out in qualifying, we need more to stay ahead.”
Hamilton: “I had a great day overall, I really enjoyed driving today. And I think we got a lot of data. I mean, it’s not the place to test and eventually upgrade but the car was feeling good overall. I think it was obviously A bit of a shame, we weren’t as close as I would have liked at the end of the session, but we definitely felt the improvements. We’ll just have to keep chopping and see if we can squeeze some more juice out of the car.”
Russell: “Qualifying is part of the weekend where we’re generally struggling. We always do better on Sunday, when you look at the last 18 months, so we need to try and figure out some things overnight, there are definitely some positive signs that can Taking it from the session, which is definitely improved from FP1. It’s never easy to get around that place.”
Russell captured Mercedes’ improvements by improving their W14 between laps
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Sports Pictures