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Thursday analysis - five teams in top six bodes well for race 21 May 2009

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 21 May 2009 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2009.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 21 May 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 21 May 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 21 May 2009 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF109.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 21 May 2009

The tasks for Monaco’s opening day of practice were, as usual, chassis set-up work and tyre evaluation, the latter again being critical with the need to run both Bridgestone’s soft and super-soft tyre compounds. The times were close right from the start, and the afternoon saw a fabulous battle as Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello, Kazuki Nakajima and Felipe Massa took turns to set the pace. Since conditions change quickly here, however, Thursday’s individual performances need not be representative of what can be expected on Saturday…

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 18.024s, P7/1m 15.243,s P1
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 18.000s, P6/1m 16.260s, P9

Rosberg reported that he did not immediately feel comfortable in his FW31, but became happier as the grip levels rose. Then he felt he could have gone faster still but for traffic in the afternoon. Nakajima felt his car was difficult in the second session.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 17.578s, P3/1m 15.445s, P2
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 17.686s, P4/1m 15.984s, P7

Hamilton said that he was very encouraged by the performance of his MP4-24, and that he’ll be shooting for a top five qualifying slot on Saturday. Kovalainen was also quick all day, and seemed quietly optimistic.

Brawn
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 17.189s, P1/1m 15.590s, P3
Jenson Button, 1m 18.080s, P8/1m 15.774s, P4

Barrichello was happy with the way his first day in Monaco went and hopes for good things as a birthday present in qualifying on Saturday. He said he evaluated lots of things with positive outcomes, and that the oversteer he experienced was controllable and the balance good. Button found his BGP001 a challenge in the morning with locking rear wheels in low-speed corners and understeer in the high-speed sections. Some good set-up changes helped tame it for the afternoon and he felt they were moving in the direction of the decent balance that will be crucial for qualifying.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 17.499s, P2/1m 15.832s, P5
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 17.839s, P5/1m 15.985s, P8

Ferrari enjoyed a trouble-free day with both drivers amassing 73 laps. Massa was happy to be among the front runners, and that his F60 was quick and consistent. Raikkonen said his car was handling reasonably well but that there was room for improvement.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 19.233s, P13/1m 15.847s, P6
Mark Webber, 1m 18.348s, P10/1m 16.579s, P12

Vettel lost some track time with his morning engine failure, but the team did a great job to turn it round for the afternoon despite the late arrival of parts. Webber had a mixed bag of a day, suffering a vibration at the rear of the car in the morning, and then hitting lots of yellow flags in the afternoon. Both cars have a new double diffuser here.

Renault
Nelson Piquet, 1m 19.204s, P12/1m 16.286s, P10
Fernando Alonso, 1m 18.283s, P9/1m 16.552s, P11

Piquet held himself back around Monte Carlo initially, and soon found the groove. He liked the behaviour of his R29 in general. Alonso said that Thursday was more about the drivers settling in than the cars, and that he was happy with the way things went.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 19.600s, P18/1m 16.675s, P13
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 19.534s, P15/1m 17.504s, P19

Sutil liked his VJM02’s balance but suffered rear tyre graining with both the soft and super-soft compounds. Fisichella had the same problem.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 19.831s, P20/1m 16.915s, P14
Timo Glock, 1m 19.698s, P19/1m 17.207s, P18

Trulli reported a normal first day of practice, gathering data. But he had some tyre degradation problems in the afternoon. Glock tried several aero and mechanical set-ups and did a lot of tyre work in the afternoon, and left feeling unsure where Toyota were in the overall scheme of things for the day.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 18.695s, P11/1m 16.983s, P15
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 19.255s, P14/1m 17.052s, P16

Buemi reported a positive day with the pace steadily improving. Bourdais said his STR4 was good on short runs, less good on longer stints.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 19.579s, P17/1m 17.109s, P17
Robert Kubica, 1m 19.560s, P16/No time

Not a good day here, though BMW Sauber traditionally do race work on the first day. Heidfeld had brake problems in the morning, and traffic in the afternoon, but concluded that Monaco does not suit the F1.09. Kubica was disappointed with the lack of performance, and even more with his afternoon engine failure.