5 things we learned from Friday practice at the Monaco Grand Prix
The sound of V6 turbo hybrid engines could be heard reverberating around the narrow streets of Monte Carlo once more as practice for the Monaco Grand Prix got underway. Here are five things we learned from the two sessions…
1. Ferrari emerge as favourites for pole
This time last year, Ferrari had the best package in Monaco – having struggled for form at the preceding races – but they failed to convert. Fast forward to 2022, and they arrive with a title-contending package – and based on Friday practice, once again are the ones to beat. Will it be different this season?
Home favourite Charles Leclerc led the way in second practice, just 0.044s ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz but an impressive 0.379s quicker than the closest Red Bull, who have had the faster package in each of the last two events.
When our data team crunched the numbers, that advantage slimmed to 0.22s – but that’s still an edge that makes the Scuderia favourites to not only take pole – but also lock out the front row. With overtaking tricky around Monte Carlo, half the job could be done – providing they are reliable, of course – tomorrow.
While both drivers admitted the 2022-spec cars were more challenging to tame around Monaco compared to their predecessors, they were convinced the F1-75 was competitive. The F1-75’s long-run pace (below) was the best, too, albeit just 0.08s better than Red Bull’s. As the sun set at Monaco, it was certainly advantage Ferrari.
2. Red Bull chasing performance
Red Bull have won the last three Grands Prix, securing a one-two in the last race in Spain, but they appear to be second-best so far in Monaco, according to the short (below) and long run data.
They are lacking in the medium-speed corners and on the straights versus Ferrari – but they hold nearly 0.2s worth of advantage in the slow corners, making them the strongest of all in the middle sector.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez spoke of having lots of work to do overnight, as they chase the balance. We’ve seen Red Bull slightly off on a Friday and then come back fighting on Saturday so they shouldn’t be discounted for the win. But they certainly have the more challenging homework of the two main title contending teams.
3. Mercedes struggling for pace on low fuel
Mercedes turned a corner in Spain but knew that Monaco – which hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for them in the past – could prove to be tricky. And on the evidence of Friday practice, that may well turn out to be the case.
Their Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin said they are struggling with the ride, which is preventing Lewis Hamilton and George Russell from attacking the lap, especially when running low fuel. That puts them fourth in our rankings, behind McLaren.
Their long run pace is more encouraging, they are third – 0.38s per lap slower than Ferrari, but they felt their consistency was good and they suffered less degradation than some of their rivals. Still plenty to work on overnight, but for now, their battle looks to be with McLaren.
4. McLaren repeat Monaco form
McLaren weren’t expecting much when they rolled into Monaco last year – and then Lando Norris went and put the car fifth on the grid before converting that into a surprise podium.
Despite that result, they were still cautious heading back this year. But the early signs are positive. Norris was fifth in each practice session, which is even more impressive given he still hasn’t fully recovered from tonsillitis.
They’re around 0.50s off the pace in low-fuel running and fifth in the long runs, with the papaya car second-best in terms of medium corner speed. While Daniel Ricciardo lost most of FP2 following a crash, he and the team remain optimistic they can compete for Q3 solidly, with Norris very much the leading contender for best-of-the rest behind the two Ferraris and two Red Bulls.
5. Alpine stronger than expected, as Alfa Romeo remain dark horses
Alpine believed Monaco’s tight and twisty nature might push it down the midfield pecking order, and while Fernando Alonso spoke of an inconsistent balance and a need to learn more about the tyres, he was generally encouraged by the pace, as he ended up eighth fastest.
Their one-lap pace is less impressive according to our data, with them sixth overall, but they are fourth when it comes to long runs and should be punching to get one if not two cars into Q3 if they make gains overnight.
Alfa Romeo are the hardest to read right now. Many felt they were contenders for the podium heading into this weekend. Valtteri Bottas missed all of FP1 courtesy of an MGU-K issue and was only 13th in the second session.
But while our low-fuel data makes for grim reading – they’re ninth overall – there’s a feeling inside the team that there is a huge chunk of time left in the car. If they can unlock that, Alfa Romeo could be dark horses this weekend.