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What we learned in Friday practice at the Monaco Grand Prix

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Bragging rights for Friday’s practice ahead of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix belonged to Max Verstappen, who led the race in FP2, while FP1 leader Carlos Sainz crashed in the second period.

Collecting 1m12.462s Although none of his sector times were of sufficient quality to embellish the purple timing boards, Verstappen stitched together a consistent three-segment split to ensure he made the most of his Red Bull RB19 throughout the lap. That put him past the Ferrari of Sainz and Charles Leclerc, the former of whom cut his race short when he collided with an interior wall on the pool section exit.

Sainz took the lead in the first session, three tenths ahead of compatriot Fernando Alonso and was once again among the leaders before he nearly replicated teammate Leclerc’s crash in qualifying at the 2021 Principality . Red flags delayed the obligatory late-game simulation, but a quick cleanup provided a 12-minute uninterrupted run at the end.

Still, this affects the level of information the teams can gather, but as is often the case in Monaco, securing qualifying remains a top priority.

Here’s everything we learned from Friday’s practice in Monaco.

story of the day

Pool diversion in FP2 didn't do Sainz any favors

Pool diversion in FP2 didn’t do Sainz any favors

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

It may sound clich√©, but Monaco is one of the most challenging circuits on the F1 calendar because of its proximity to walls and tight corners. Red flags for both practice sessions were not surprising, as practice sessions provided an opportunity for teams and drivers to test the limits of their cars’ grip on the road.

FP1 had a pair of red flags, and when Nico Hulkenberg collided with an interior wall at Nouvelle Chicane, the first thing that came up was clearing debris. The German had the left rear tire removed from the rim, causing him to spin. He crawled back to the pits with minimal damage, but felt it necessary to take a break from the race.

Alex Albon’s crash at the end of the race was more costly as he crashed at Sainte Devote towards the end of the race and wrecked much of Williams’ left side, also bringing FP1 to a slightly premature end.

With their fastest soft tire lap times, Red Bull’s advantage over Ferrari was largely on corner exits – especially at Casino Square and Portel

Sainz was responsible for the only red flag in FP2 when he got too close to the inside barrier on the La Piscine exit and broke his right front suspension – leaving him no choice but to crash straight into the wall. That cost him a chance to reprise his role at the top of the schedule, and the focus on the long runs has cemented Verstappen’s place in the standings when the session resumes.

The Spaniard, who had just been replaced by team-mate Leclerc for second-fastest time, had struggled to ‘jump’ his Ferrari as he tackled a low-speed corner, one of which would jack up during a curb strike. Sainz looked the more comfortable of the two in Friday’s race, but his crash cost him any chance of any race preparation.

Verstappen’s headline time thus withstood any further test, but the gap between him and the Ferrari duo was slim. Red Bull was expected to lose some ground in the slow environment of the Monaco stadium; while that did happen, he kept his familiar table on the order.

Why qualifying is more important than usual in Monaco

Being on pole at the Monaco Grand Prix can be described unscientifically as 95% of the work done in pursuit of victory. Even in an era of smaller, narrower cars, Monte Carlo’s claustrophobic streets were notoriously hostile to Formula 1 overtaking, but pole position will add a separate cachet to this year’s event.

That’s because the teams are so close this time around, due to the characteristics of each car on the grid, and using race pace to predict races ends up producing unreliable narratives. Traffic negotiations in the third quarter will be at the fore and will be one of the key factors in determining where the grid goes for Sunday’s race.

With their fastest soft tire lap times, Red Bull’s advantage over Ferrari was mainly on corner exits – especially at Casino Square and Portel. The SF-23 was a race under acceleration, and as the tempo picked up, it was able to stabilize any losses in time, but failed to turn the odds around in those specific areas.

Verstappen beats Leclerc for top spot in FP2, proves stronger corner exit

Verstappen beats Leclerc for top spot in FP2, proves stronger corner exit

Photograph: Sam Bagnall / motorsport pictures

As has been the case so far this season, Ferrari were particularly strong on the brakes, with both Leclerc and Sainz confidently off the gas pedal later than their rivals, but this seemed to hold them back slightly on the exit. But it was a good margin, with Ferrari dominating the opening of the track and the stretch from Mirabeau to Poitier.

Aston Martin, dragged down by Fernando Alonso’s surprise win hopes in Monaco, saw the Aston Martin on two of the track’s slowest sections – the Loews hairpin and the Nouvelle Chicane. Weaker than competitors. The AMR23 also has an advantage in traction, but the drivers seem to lack confidence in the slowest parts of the track. As Alonso tried to force the car to run, the gas trace showed a small blip at the Nouvelle Chicane.

Mercedes is slightly behind the top three despite cautious optimism within the camp about its new upgrade. While the Monaco will naturally gloss over many of the newly updated details, drivers report greater stability from the brakes thanks to revised front suspension. There have been persistent understeer issues in the Mirabeau, Hairpin and Portier corners, and a lack of confidence in the first corner left Lewis Hamilton and George Russell slightly behind Red Bull and Ferrari from the start, but an overnight adjustment could make a difference Offers an opportunity to relieve these symptoms.

If the drivers can avoid smearing the barriers with red paint, Ferrari will have a very real chance of drawing first blood before Saturday’s race ends

The race time on medium tyres was short and the Mercedes were able to shine even more in those conditions. Hamilton’s lap times were within two-tenths of Verstappen’s, but with such a small sample size there was little chance of them being compared. Alonso finished his long run on a set of soft tyres, so it looked no match for the medium tyres, which are expected to be the most popular for much of the grand prix.

Alpine was surprisingly strong in its short middle run, with Esteban Ocon timed ahead of Verstappen and Gasly at times in a similar position. Again, traffic seems to be a differentiating factor, and the tendency for trains to form during races will largely randomize long run speeds.

If it comes down to qualifying, barring any threat of inclement weather over the weekend, Ferrari will have a very real chance of drawing first blood before Saturday’s race ends, provided the drivers can avoid smearing the barriers with red paint . Verstappen can spoil the party, but Ferrari’s fate is largely in its own hands. Maybe that’s what scares even the most ardent tifoso…

what the drivers say

Can Leclerc fight on pole?

Can Leclerc fight on pole?

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

Verstappen: “I think FP1 is very tricky, I’m not really happy with the car’s handling over curbs and bumps. FP2 has been much better, the car feels more competitive. Especially compared to Ferrari, we’re in the general driving of the car Still a bit lacking in terms of how it handles curbs, bumps, etc. Camber drop. That’s still something we’ll have to work on tomorrow because you can see they’re very, very close and knowing you hit the limit in qualifying, we It takes more to stay ahead.”

Hamilton: “Overall I had a good day, I really enjoyed the drive today. I think we got a lot of data. I mean, it’s not where the final testing and upgrades are, but the car overall Feeling good. I think it’s clear, it’s a bit of a shame we weren’t as close at the end of the session as I’d hoped, but it did feel like progress. We’ll just have to keep pushing and see if we can squeeze some more out of the car juice.”

Russell: “Qualifying is part of the weekend and we usually struggle with that. We’ve always done better on Sunday, when you look back over the last 18 months, so we need to try to get it right overnight. To clear things up, there are definitely some positive signs from this meeting, definitely an improvement over FP1. It’s never been easy in this place.”

Russell heartened by improvements at Mercedes, upgrades W14 between sessions

Russell heartened by improvements at Mercedes, upgrades W14 between sessions

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

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