Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton proved that Mercedes’ Formula 1 rivals are right to fear its Monaco pace as they went first and second in Thursday afternoon practice in Monte Carlo.
As is often the case on a practice day, Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus set ominously rapid long-run times that hinted at far more threatening race form that the headline pace suggested.
The Finn and his team-mate Romain Grosjean were sixth and seventh, despite the latter having the first crash of the F1 weekend when he slid into the Sainte Devote barriers on only his 11th lap.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m14.759s 45 2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m15.077s + 0.318s 50 3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m15.196s + 0.437s 37 4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m15.278s + 0.519s 38 5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m15.404s + 0.645s 41 6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m15.511s + 0.752s 38 7. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m15.718s + 0.959s 10 8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m15.959s + 1.200s 39 9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m16.014s + 1.255s 32 10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m16.046s + 1.287s 42 11. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m16.349s + 1.590s 43 12. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m16.434s + 1.675s 40 13. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m16.823s + 2.064s 42 14. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m16.857s + 2.098s 40 15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m16.935s + 2.176s 44 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m17.145s + 2.386s 37 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m17.184s + 2.425s 42 18. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m17.264s + 2.505s 46 19. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m17.892s + 3.133s 40 20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m18.212s + 3.453s 43 21. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m18.784s + 4.025s 40 22. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m19.031s + 4.272s 30
“I think yes, if we get all the things right,” Raikkonen said when asked by AUTOSPORT if Mercedes’ lap time was within reach.
“We will see. Why not? We see what happens on Saturday.
“You would think they will be very fast. Today they were very fast, but things can change. We have to wait and see. I have no interest to start guessing what can happen on Saturday.”
He added: “We have to see how it is in the morning. If it’s like this morning then it’s going to be a disaster. But we improved a lot and it’s getting better and better all the time.
The Lotus driver said starting from the two first rows of the grid will be crucial if he wants to have a shot at winning the race.
“If we want to win, probably yes,” he said.
Peter Windsor watching from Rascasse: ”Kimi was of course just beautiful to watch, even if he was locking up the front brakes more than we usually see. He wasn’t quite as far to the right as Alonso and Maldonado (or Di Resta, as it happens) but his initial steering movements were very slight and very small – a mile away from Vettel’s. Then, in one clean movement, he would tuck in the front for the major rotation and accelerate without fuss towards the exit of the corner. Totally repeatable and extremely efficient (left).”
Kimi Raikkonen – 11th/6th: “I was much happier at the end of today than this morning. We spent the first session getting the steering right as it wasn’t great at the beginning, then we changed a few things on the car and it felt far better. We’ve still got a few other areas to improve, but it was getting stronger with every run today. To get pole we have to make the car a bit faster overall and I have to drive a bit better, then we’ll have to see what happens.”
Romain Grosjean – 3rd/7th: “After a great start to the day it was a real shame to end things early. I didn’t have the grip I expected going into the corner, but there was nothing wrong with the car; my braking and entry speed were all wrong and I ended up hitting the barrier. There was no chance to let off and go straight on into the runoff area; I was committed to the corner so that was it. We have a very good car here and it gives you the confidence to push, but unfortunately I pushed a bit too hard. I’m sorry for the team and I definitely owe them all a drink for all the work that’s needed before Saturday. The grid looks very close, but we seem in good shape and I’m eager to get back out on track and fight for the top positions.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director: “We’re pretty happy about today. We had a little blip with Romain going into the wall and stopping him doing any long run evaluations in the afternoon, but Kimi completed plenty of laps so we have ample amounts of data to evaluate. Our pace looks good, both drivers are pretty happy with their cars and we’ve still got some improvements to make on both front end grip and single lap pace. There’s not too much damage to Romain’s car and we have plenty of spares so we’re not concerned on that front. That Romain’s fastest lap today was on the soft tyre illustrates his strong pace here, as there’s a second or even more to come from the super soft. Kimi’s a little further off getting the perfect set-up, but we know where the improvements should come from.”