Making an early statement on the streets of Monaco yesterday was Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
In a twenty-five lap session, the Red Bull pilot registered a best of 1:16.619, taking the top spot away from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the final moments of the session.
For a time, it was a session that saw both Felipe Massa (also Ferrari) and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton also front the pack, before being shuffled down the order.
It wasn’t only Vettel and Alonso that nudged ahead of the pair – Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg sneaked in a time good enough for 3rd on the sheets, albeit half-a-second adrift of the quickest pace. Massa and Hamilton eventually assumed 4th and 5th respectively, both around seven-tenths slower than Vettel.
However, not everything was going to plan at Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes. Jenson Button (McLaren) secured the 6th best time, before spending the latter stages of practice soothing a malfunctioning KERS unit, while Red Bull’s Mark Webber did not set a time after his gearbox stopped functioning after three installation laps.
Michael Schumacher (10th, Mercedes) ended the morning in St Devote’s welcoming Armco barrier. The German veteran was not the only driver to have an off – both Sergio Perez (Sauber) and Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus) had harmless slides off the course; each recovering with little fanfare.
The same could not be said of Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Hispania racer locked his rear brakes on the exit of the tunnel, pitching the Italian hard into the barrier at the Nouvelle chicane.
There were other drama’s, not created by Formula 1’s complex machinery. “Weeper’s” (water seeping through the top layer of ground) crept across the track at the secondary start / finish lights, as an underground leakage peered out onto the surface of the road.
A swift red flag emerged, as circuit managers examined the scene, in an effort to find its source.
Monaco’s tightness and unique circuit concept means the track requires individual attention in order to attack its slender confines and high downforce requirements.
The weekend also calls for no DRS to be used in the tunnel at any stage, due to safety concerns.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m16.619s 25 2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m16.732s + 0.113 24 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m17.139s + 0.520 20 4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m17.316s + 0.697 24 5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m17.350s + 0.731 23 6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m17.534s + 0.915 24 7. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m18.527s + 1.908 30 8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m18.578s + 1.959 24 9. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m18.733s + 2.114 16 10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m18.805s + 2.186 14 11. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m18.928s + 2.309 19 12. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m19.234s + 2.615 24 13. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m19.395s + 2.776 24 14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m19.463s + 2.844 25 15. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m19.768s + 3.149 25 16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m19.792s + 3.173 26 17. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m20.083s + 3.464 23 18. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m21.116s + 4.497 27 19. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m21.548s + 4.929 32 20. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m21.758s + 5.139 31 21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m21.815s + 5.196 17 22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m22.840s + 6.221 13 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m23.885s + 7.266 37 24. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault No time 3