As is the way with Monaco, Thursday marked the opening two sessions of the weekend with free practice. But it wasn’t all as you would expect with F1, 2014 style as Formula One hit Monaco.
As the morning session got under way Lewis Hamilton, the current championship leader, arrived late to the track but despite his late start he ended the session on top of the time sheet. Just 0.032s faster than Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. During FP1 there was only other driver to occupy top slot of the time sheet, other than one of the Silver Arrows and this was the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. By the time the chequered flag was out the Aussie was third fastest overall. With his best lap time being just 0.235s slower than Rosberg’s. This could be an early sign that the Mercedes may face a challenge for the win come Sunday, something yet to be seen in 2014.
Over the course of FP1, Mirabeau was a corner providing some trouble for certain drivers. In the case of Sutil, he suffered the biggest damage to his car through the corner after the rear of his Sauber collected the wall, partially damaging the rear of his car. But over at Marussia, Max Chilton had a spin at the same corner, blocking most of the track at the time and marking an end to his session. But even a two-time World Champion can have a tricky time, as was shown by Alonso who required the escape road at Mirabeau to avoid damaging his Ferrari.
Despite the morning session being dry, the grey clouds swept in and before the afternoon session was underway, a large hailstorm fell on the Principality. Covering the already slippery track with water, teams opted to remain in the garages for the first part of FP2 and keep the cars safe from any possible barrier brushing.
Eventually cars took to the track on intermediate tyres, despite the track being to dry. But putting his first session mishap behind him, Fernando Alonso finished the session top of the time sheet. Pipping Hamilton into second place by 0.419s. But just because it was a good session for the two of them, their team-mates failed to enjoy the session with Kimi Raikkonen ending the session in 22nd place or last, and Nico Rosberg finishing the session down in 20th.
But there again was it actually a good session for Hamilton? Throughout the session Lewis was kept pushing for another fast lap to go with his morning speed but it wasn’t going his way. Especially once he was stuck being Hulkenberg and, on the streets of Monaco, there was nowhere for him to go and he abandoned his lap. Later on in the session Lewis was again held back on track, this time through the tunnel by the hands of Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham. By the end of the session he was able to complete a fast lap, which saw him move into second place.
The reason behind Raikkonen’s poor session, and low lap count was because the gearbox in his F14 T failed. Kimi had been one of the earliest drivers to take to the track in FP2 whilst on the intermediates, before his gearbox failed. It really wasn’t a good day for Raikkonen, as he was later saved from further trouble when a Red Bull mechanic leapt to drag him out of the way of Vettel’s pitbox. This coming in Monaco’s cramped pitlane, after the former World Champion, had inadvertently wandered in front of it.