It’s one of the biggest weekends of the year in motorsport and even the sun has come out to join in the fun. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be sending over two blogs about the Monaco Grand Prix and look ahead to how Fernando Alonso will far in the Indianapolis 500. Let’s start with a look at how Thursdays’ practice in Monaco progressed It proved to be a day of varying experiences for Mercedes.
After his win in the Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton got off to a good start in Monaco as he was fastest in the first practice session. He was 0.196 seconds ahead of championship leader Sebastian Vettel. Max Verstappen saw his long weekend in Monaco get off to a good start finishing third just ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes.
It was a promising session for Mercedes with the fastest time alternating between their two drivers. Certainly, an eventful one for Verstappen as his Red Bull needed repairs to his car’s floor halfway through the session. He was only 0.346 seconds behind Hamilton and the gap between Red Bull and the two top teams is narrowing.
Jenson Button didn’t do too bad in his one-race comeback standing in for Fernando Alonso who is in the USA for the Indy 500 (look out for a blog on that at the weekend). He finished but was 0.141 seconds behind team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. Even more impressive considering he hadn’t driven the McLaren before.
The advantage Mercedes seemed to have in the first session disappeared in the afternoon. It was Sebastian Vettel who was fastest in the second session with Lewis Hamilton down in eighth place. Daniel Ricciardo was second fastest 0.487 seconds behind Vettel but Hamilton was over a second behind the German. His team mate Valtteri Bottas was in tenth, 0.025 seconds behind. The Toro Rosso cars of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz had a great second practice finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Max Verstappen was in sixth.
It must be a worry for Mercedes that their simulation runs seemed to lack a degree of pace compared to their rivals. To find out more about the situation, the Mercedes were sent out again but this time on ultra-soft tyres.
It wasn’t a great session for Lance Stroll in his Williams. The 18-year-old crashed again causing the practice session to be halted for ten minutes. The right-hand side of his car was damaged after losing control going into the entry to Massenet. Jenson Button finished 12th fastest but this time only 0.035 seconds behind Vandoorne.
Lewis Hamilton wasn’t in the best of moods after the second practice session declaring that “We didn’t have the greatest day.” The main concern seems to be the tyres with Hamilton saying that “we just struggled to exact the grip from the tyres and we were sliding around a lot.” Friday may well be a rest day but the Mercedes team will be working flat out to work out how to get things right for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying sessions. Valtteri Bottas sees the weekend being an all-out battle with Ferrari “quick again” and Red Bull “looking good.”
I’ll be back on Saturday with two blogs looking ahead to the Monaco Grand Prix and the big race in the USA. Till then, enjoy your racing.