Champion faultless around Monte Carlo as Hamilton slips up
McLaren should have retained the top two positions in Thursday afternoons second practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, but while Fernando Alonso set the quickest time of 1m 15.940s, Lewis Hamilton finally broke his duck and put his McLaren in the wall at Ste Devote shortly after his early pace-setting lap of 1m 16.296s had fractionally been improved upon by his Spanish team mate.
The Englishmans McLaren lost its left front wheel and was clearly out of action, and when the running resumed Kimi Raikkonen pipped his time with 1m 16.215s in the lead Ferrari.
Where the morning session was relatively quiet, this one was full of drama. BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld and Ferraris Felipe Massa each bounced over the exit kerb at the Swimming Pool, and David Coulthard spun his Red Bull on the entry to the Loews hairpin. Then Anthony Davidson dropped his Super Aguri at Ste Devote and walloped the tyres. After Hamilton had followed suit, Adrian Sutil slid his Spyker into the wall at the turn just before Portier, and finally Ralf Schumacher bumped over the Swimming Pool exit kerb and speared his Toyota into the wall. The story was the same everywhere: get fractionally off line, and you were history.
Behind the top three, 2004 winner Jarno Trulli planted his Toyota in fourth place in 1m 16.354s, ahead of an on-form Giancarlo Fisichella, whose Renault was working much better. The Italian lapped in 1m 16.753s for fifth, with Massa sixth on 1m 16.784s. Robert Kubica was the initial pace-setter but had to settle for seventh after failing to improve on 1m 16.848s for BMW Sauber, a time that looked very quick when he set it early on. Nico Rosberg was still up there for Williams on 1m 16.852s just ahead of Mark Webber for Red Bull, with 1m 17.292s.
Coulthard improved to 1m 17.414s to shadow his team mate, then came the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button on 1m 17.449s and 1m 17.457s respectively. Takuma Sato was right behind Button for Super Aguri, with 1m 17.459s. Heidfelds troubled afternoon yielded only 1m 17.486s for 14th, ahead of Alex Wurz (1m 17.516s for Williams) and Tonio Liuzzi, whose 1m 17.898s best for Toro Rosso was sixth fastest at the time he set it.
Heikki Kovalainen did not break the 1m 18s barrier, lapping his Renault in 1m 18.086s, and the Finn was followed by Toro Rossos Scott Speed (1m 18.233s), Davidson (1m 18.328s), Schumacher (1m 18.662s), Spykers Christijan Albers (1m 18.820s) and team mate Sutil (1m 19.358s).
There was much experimentation with Bridgestones prime and option tyres (soft and super-soft), with the really fast times coming on the latter. The indications remain that McLaren and Ferrari are the class of the field, and this day Alonso and Raikkonen put their upstart team mates in their place.