Not only on account of the fact that both FP1 and FP2 took place in the unique-to-Monaco spot of Thursday, but the track action itself made for a rather peculiar first day of running. The weekend in Monaco is a story of unrelenting track evolution, but the rubber laid down in today’s opening session was soon replaced by puddles, as FP2 was riddled by showers which kept the majority of drivers in the confines of the garage for a full hour. Rain, therefore, doing the work which is usually done by Thursday and Friday evening’s parties at Monaco’s social hotspots. Just like those enjoying the perks of attending this particular weekend, Lewis Hamilton will be sporting a smile heading into the heart of the weekend, as the Briton topped the timesheet’s in both of today’s sessions.
Ultimately, conclusions based on today have been curtailed by the rain shower, which came during the most valuable part of the day’s running. Indeed, no driver managed to venture onto the circuit on the super-soft tyre – the stickiest of Pirelli’s range – meaning that the qualifying pace of the runners and riders is somewhat of an unknown. To gain a perspective of proceedings, more inference than usual is required.
It is this analysis which shows Mercedes to be in a strong position after day one. While an early skirmish with the wall on the outside of Tabac could have cost Nico Rosberg dearly, the German escaped the clutches of the barrier unscathed and went on to contribute to a day which, considering the unfavorable conditions, could not have gone much better for the championship leaders. They seem strong on short runs, which is invaluable at Monaco and as such, lessens the requirement for equal race pace, (which we assume the Silver Arrows will have regardless).
As predicted after analysing the sector three times in Barcelona – a section of the circuit which best resembles the technical nature of this weekend’s venue – Ferrari lack the traction and mechanical grip required to match Mercedes on this occasion. Kimi Raikkonen in particular seemed to struggle today, as he complained of difficulties regarding tyre warm up.
Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, has clearly dialed into the circuit from the outset. “I’m generally happy with the balance”, he said, “but there are still things I can improve upon balance-wise, but also on the track.” This has to be positive news for Hamilton’s army of fans, as the Briton typically struggles to find a balance he is happy with. It seems that for the majority of weekends, he complains of poor balance following a Friday feast of laps. To immediately have found a good balance bodes well for a good weekend to come.
Mixed Fortunes For Monaco Newbies
While we are beginning to familiarise ourselves with the Toro Rosso duo out-performing an ever-increasing threshold of expectation, their running today was note-worthy. Max Verstappen made headlines this morning, with a late lap to send him up to P2 in the timesheet, demonstrating the extent of track evolution on the city streets. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz was equally impressive, as they both tested the limits of the circuit, without over-stepping them.
Roberto Merhi, on the other hand, will be disappointed to claim the unfortunate crown of first driver to end a session in the omni-present barriers at Monaco 2015. The Manor-Marussia driver made the typical mistake on the downhill braking for the Nouvelle Chicane. He locked up, pitching the car into the barrier on the outside. However, it is always better to make a mistake early on in the weekend and given the rainfall which arrived immediately after the Spaniard’s excursion, the damage done to his preparation was more aesthetic than substantial.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:18.750
2 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 0.149
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 0.336
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.384
5 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 0.495
6 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 0.704
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 0.770
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0.929
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.012
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1.016
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1.041
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1.452
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1.524
14 Sergio Perez Force India 1.869
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 2.034
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber 2.107
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 2.167
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 2.469
19 Will Stevens Manor 4.484
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 4.654
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.192
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.740
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.103
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.351
5 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1.356
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1.467
7 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1.590
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1.714
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1.959
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 2.074
11 Sergio Perez Force India 2.108
12 Felipe Massa Williams 2.368
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams 2.374
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 2.385
15 Jenson Button McLaren 2.414
16 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 2.447
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber 3.071
18 Roberto Merhi Manor 4.825
19 Will Stevens Manor 5.751
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber