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Analysis - Thursday's formbook in Monte Carlo 24 May 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 The damaged McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 of Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren at Ste Devote.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 Adrian Sutil (GER) Spyker F8-VII crashes during practice.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2007

Who were the real winners and losers in Monaco?

While Fernando Alonso ended the opening day of the Monaco Grand Prix meeting fastest for McLaren (1m 15.940s), team mate Lewis Hamilton was left in third place (1m 16.296) rueing his first serious mistake since he started racing for the team. “I had a very small braking error coming into Ste Devote,” he explained, “and the tyres hadn’t built up enough grip so I made a tiny mistake, and the back of the car slipped a little and that was it. There is just no room for error in Monaco."

His MP4-22 will require a significant rebuild, but otherwise the team are happy with their progress thus far and Alonso in particular was quite satisfied with his day’s work.

At Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen got closer to the F2007’s potential with second-fastest time (1m 16.215s), but Felipe Massa struggled a little as he got held up by traffic when running on new tyres in the afternoon. Over the long run the team were satisfied to have completed the day’s job list and are reasonably confident they have found a decent chassis set-up.

A bittersweet day for Toyota began with an unusual problem: a burst water pipe in their garage which disenabled all their telemetry. The engineers dealt with that, but Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were only 19th and 20th at the end of that first session. In the afternoon Trulli was able to improve dramatically, to fourth (1m 16.354s), but after his accident exiting the Swimming Pool, when he caught the kerb and slid into the outer wall, Schumacher was only 20th on 1m 18.662s.

Renault were cautiously optimistic after Giancarlo Fisichella’s fifth place lap (1m 16.753s), but that was tempered by Heikki Kovalainen’s presence in only 17th (1m 18.086s). Pat Symonds, the team’s executive director of engineering, felt it was a day on which they could draw many positives even though the Italian’s morning shunt at Ste Devote had damaged the monocoque. This will be replaced for Saturday, but the spare tub will still use his regular engine. That incident meant that the team had to do some car swapping in the afternoon, and on top of that Kovalainen’s new-tyre run was compromised by traffic. On the old tyres, however, he had been close to Fisichella. The main focus of the day was on fine-tuning engine mapping, shift points and cooling levels.

Between them, BMW Sauber’s drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld covered 150 laps today. The Pole ended his day seventh (1m 16.848s), but the German was only 14th (1m 17.486s). Kubica was happy enough, though he thought more work was required on set-up, but Heidfeld had a frustrating time with a fuel pressure problem which continually caused his engine to surge.

Williams were reasonably buoyant after Nico Rosberg’s eighth-fastest lap (1m 16.852s), but to begin with the German was very unhappy with his FW29’s behaviour. Step by step work improved this a lot by the end of the day, hand in hand with the track rubbering up. Team mate Alex Wurz experienced similar problems on his way to 15th (1m 17.516s), and was then bothered by traffic and yellow flags. He felt that he could have been well up the field without that, given the chassis set-up the team arrived at by the time the flag came out.

Ninth and 10th fastest times were a bit of a disappointment for Red Bull and their improving RB3, and were partly due to yet more hydraulic problems for both Mark Webber (ninth on 1m 17.292s) and David Coulthard (10th on 1m 17.414s). The Scot also damaged his car’s rear wing and floor in his off at Loews in the morning. Webber’s wallbanger at Ste Devote late this afternoon damaged the left rear tyre, and the mechanics later changed the gearbox as a precaution.

Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button started Honda’s Monaco campaign with 11th and 12th fastest times respectively (1m 17.449s and 1m 17.457s), the team achieving everything they set out to in what was described as a generally productive, problem-free day.

There was good and bad news at Super Aguri, with Takuma Sato 13th (1m 17.459s) but Anthony Davidson down in 19th (1m 19.328s) after crashing his SA07 at Ste Devote. Sato was quite content. Davidson was annoyed: “It’s a frustrating day when you finish kissing the barrier at Turn One. I was really flying up to that point, felt very confident in the car and was beginning to build up speed lap after lap and was starting on a long run.”

Tonio Liuzzi’s best lap for Toro Rosso (1m 17.898s) was good for 16th overall but tellingly was sixth fastest when it was set. Given that team insiders reckon the STR02 to be up to a second a lap slower than the Red Bull RB3, that was a strong performance. Scott Speed backed it with 1m 18.233s for 18th, but the team will have an aero package update in time for practice and qualifying on Saturday which will comprise a new front wing and barge boards to help generate more downforce.

Spyker had a difficult day, with Christijan Albers suffering an engine failure in the morning, and Adrian Sutil crashing his car in the afternoon. However, Albers’ pace with a fresh V8 in the afternoon, when his 21st fastest lap of 1m 18.820s was respectably close to Davidson and Schumacher despite the lost track time, was cause for a little bit of optimism.