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Thursday analysis - Ferrari, Red Bull ready to pounce

22 May 2014

Conditions were better than expected in Monaco on Thursday, particularly with regard to the newly surfaced section of track from Casino Square to the end of the tunnel, which proved to have decent grip. FP1 presented few problems, but the wet track at the start of FP2 disrupted things for a while and only enabled teams to get their first runs on the supersoft Pirelli tyre right at the end. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Monte Carlo…


Fernando Alonso, 1m 18.930s, P4/1m 18.482s, P1

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 19.467s, P6/1m 45.509s, P22

Alonso was quick in both sessions, setting the pace in the second with a series of strong laps when the track was busiest right at the end. But he wasn’t letting himself get too carried away and voiced the usual first-day caveats. Raikkonen was about to start matching his pace in FP2 after setting the fastest time in the first sector, but then had to crawl back to the pits with a gearbox problem that prevented him from running again. Ferrari will desperately be hoping that replacement won’t be needed; Monaco is the last venue you want to have a five-place grid penalty.


Lewis Hamilton, 1m 18.271s, P1/1m 18.901s, P2

Nico Rosberg, 1m 18.303s, P2/1m 22.862s, P20

Hamilton and Rosberg both said they were very happy with the way their days went, even though it appeared that the opposition had caught up. The Mercedes had switched to race running in FP1 by the time that Ricciardo started to match their pace, and in the afternoon Alonso’s fastest time was achieved (like everyone else’s) on the supersoft tyre, yet still fell short of Hamilton’s morning time on the softs, so things weren’t entirely what they seemed. Let’s just say there’s still a very strong air of confidence in the big silver motorhome.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 19.043s, P5/1m 19.017s, P3

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 18.506s, P3/1m 19.779s, P9

They are being cautiously optimistic about their chances down at Red Bull. Ricciardo’s confidence in his car was evident in the way he screwed some real speed out of it in FP2, and Vettel was fast in the changing conditions in FP2, but as the four-time champion admitted, when trying to assess where they really are in relation to Mercedes, “It’s all guessing right now.” Saturday will reveal the truth. But even if Red Bull don’t have the outright pace to challenge Mercedes, this is the one place where some aggressive opportunism and strategy could turn the tables.

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 20.260s, P15/1m 19.351s, P4

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 20.914s, P18/1m 20.622s, P12

Vergne said his day had been the perfect way to build the confidence you need here, and even though he doesn’t expect to be fourth in qualifying he said that fighting for Q3 should be possible. On his first experience of driving on any kind of street circuit Kvyat impressed greatly, a trip up the St Devote escape road in FP2 being his sole visible indiscretion.


Valtteri Bottas, 1m 19.494s, P7/1m 19.421s, P5

Felipe Massa, 1m 20.517s, P16/1m 20.394s, P12

Again, Bottas looked good as Williams got through their programme. The Finn said he was feeling positive, but Massa lost time with a power unit sensor problem in the morning, and with traffic in the afternoon.

Force India

Sergio Perez, 1m 19.666s, P8/1m 19.668s, P6

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 19.856s, P10/1m 19.712s, P7

Once again Force India had a strong day, with Perez and Hulkenberg proving evenly matched. The Mexican said he was quite happy with his VJM07, but the German said his needs more work on the balance.


Jenson Button, 1m 20.033s, P11/1m 19.721s, P8

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 19.789s, P9/1m 20.230s, P10

McLaren are hoping for a disrupted race. Both drivers said they needed more downforce, and that there’s still work to do on the set-up. Button said that it was an unusual experience to encounter wheelspin in fifth gear, such is the torque of the Mercedes V6.


Adrian Sutil, 1m 20.736s, P17/1m 20.811s, P13

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 20.118s, P12/1m 21.467s, P15

Sutil admitted that his spin into the wall at Mirabeau in FP1 was his fault, but said that the C33 is very sensitive under acceleration or deceleration and thus requires more work on the set-up. Gutierrez thought that overall recent changes had been an improvement, however.


Pastor Maldonado, 1m 20.241s, P14/1m 20.977s, P14

Romain Grosjean, 1m 20.207s, P13/1m 21.700s, P16

The weather in FP2 prevented Lotus from continuing their tests with new parts, but both drivers reported general improvement in the performance of the E22.


Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 22.492s, P21/1m 21.924s, P17

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 22.063s, P20/1m 23.164s, P21

Work between sessions to enhance balance and mechanical grip levels here was successful, and both drivers commented on the improvement in their cars when FP2 dried out.


Jules Bianchi, 1m 21.310s, P19/1m 21.937s, P18

Max Chilton, 1m 25.817s, P22/1m 22.683s, P19

Bianchi was a bit of a star, having come here with his tail up after a strong test in Barcelona. Chilton, however, got off to a bad start when the conditions caught him out at Mirabeau early in FP1 and he was unable to continue after stalling. That hurt the team two ways, because he’d had some developments parts on his car to try.