Charles Leclerc was the fastest man on the first day of training in Monaco. At the moment it's hard to imagine who will beat the Ferrari star. The greatest danger threatens the hosts from the technology.
That was a show of strength. Charles Leclerc set both best times on Friday (May 27). Very tight on paper. Felt at a safe distance from his teammate Carlos Sainz and the two Red Bull drivers. The Ferraris were ahead in all sectors and lost less than usual in top speed. At Red Bull you still have to invest a lot of work overnight. Max Verstappen struggled with the vehicle balance. An attempt to correct it backfired.
Even second-placed Sergio Perez said: "I'm surprised how much we're missing on the Ferraris. We'll have to analyze the data tonight to see where we're losing time on them." Answer: Practically in every corner, especially in Ste. submissive
According to the Mexican, the long runs have little meaning: "I never had more than two clean laps in a row." A red flag because of Daniel Ricciardo's accident also stole nine minutes of driving time from the drivers. Leclerc has to fear technology more than Red Bull at the moment. Two MGU-K damage to Haas and Alfa Romeo customer cars make Ferrari tremble.
As expected, Mercedes fell back a bit compared to Barcelona. The engineers are still learning to understand their upgrade from Spain. The course in Monaco presented her with a new challenge. More ground clearance and spring travel than usual would be required here, but that is not good for the aerodynamics. Lewis Hamilton didn't recognize the track: "It's been repaved and is now probably the bumpiest track I've ever driven on."
The other drivers didn't fare any better. That had less to do with the track itself and more to do with the tight suspension travel that the ground effect cars require. You can feel bumps that were swallowed up by the chassis last year. All drivers agreed: "With these cars, Monte Carlo is an even greater challenge than usual.
McLaren made the strongest impression in midfield. Daniel Ricciardo delivered the downer with a massive crash in the first swimming pool chicane. The damage reduces that Stocks of spare parts for the aerodynamic specification presented in Barcelona to almost zero
Six things you need to know…
Who beats Charles Leclerc?
Charles Leclerc won both practice sessions, the first beating Sergio Perez by 0.034 seconds, the second against Carlos Sainz by 0.044s Not much on paper But the Ferrari driver's superiority was greater than the numbers would suggest
Leclerc's ideal time was 1m 12.608s and he set his times ahead of his opponents and with more ease.By the time he got to the top of the table, he was three to four tenths better than the rest. It took his opponents bit by bit to nibble away at the favorite's lead. Leclerc had long been concentrating on his long runs.
Red Bull still believes in his chance. Sports director Helmut Marko put the gap into perspective: "We're still a little too far away on the soft tires. But Max had problems with his balance. We deliberately tried something after the first training session, which unfortunately backfired. Max complains about one Mixture of understeer and oversteer."
Verstappen said he loses most of the time in the first corner. Second-placed Sergio Perez was torn: "The car didn't feel too bad, but compared to Ferrari we're too far behind."
Marko praised his drivers' long runs on the medium tires. Ferrari avoided this comparison. In return, the red cars led the endurance runs on the soft tires. At the end of practice, Carlos Sainz was the only one who even put a mini racing simulation on the hard tires on the track. Unsurprisingly, this long run outperformed all others.
Despite this, hardly anyone will use Pirelli's hard mix on Sunday. The soft tire is one second faster on the first lap, the medium rubber six tenths. And neither of the two softer compounds degrade enough to cause concern in the race.
According to the current state of the art, the greatest enemy of Ferrari drivers is technology. Leclerc's turbo damage in Barcelona was a first warning shot, even if the cause has been clarified and a repetition is said to be unlikely. In the first practice session, the MGU-K broke on two Ferrari customer engines. With Mick Schumacher in the first drive unit, with Valtteri Bottas in the second.
Schumacher then got MGU-K number two screwed onto engine number one. Swapped back for Saturday. Bottas already needs his third electric machine. The two damages leave the question unanswered as to whether they have anything to do with the vibratory track in Monte Carlo. So Ferrari should be worried. The most exciting question will be: Which engine puzzle will Leclerc use on Saturday and Sunday?
Is Mercedes fixing its uptrend?
Even before the first training session, the engineers predicted that Monte Carlo would be a tough place for the resurgent Silver Arrows. "The season started anew for us in Barcelona. Now we have to learn and develop our car. There's a special track like Monte Carlo, where you have to go different ways than in Barcelona in terms of vehicle height and suspension travel, at the wrong time. We had the fastest cars in the fast corners in Barcelona, but lagged behind in the slow ones. We still have to work on the set-up. That can take a while."
Sixth and 12th place for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton confirmed the technicians' assessments. George Russell was reasonably satisfied: "The day was good, the lap times were not yet." The fourth in the World Championship was 0.75 seconds off the best time His explanation: "We have to drive lower and harder than we want because of the aerodynamics. That makes Monte Carlo an even harder stage than usual. The cars jump so hard that it feels like you're doing a wheelie."
Lewis Hamilton sees a mountain of work ahead of him: "Tonight we still have to analyze how we can find the right mix between ultimate lap times and a rideable balance. Then a good jump is still possible tomorrow. I haven't gotten my best sectors yet and the grip feels pretty good when we're attacking. I think we have the potential to be up front. Maybe we're not quite as fast as Ferrari and Red Bull, but I hope we can be ahead of the rest."
Had Hamilton put his best sectors into one lap, he would have ended up with 1m 14.044s. The record winner had but only one attempt due to heavy traffic on the track. There was still a lack of confidence in the car in the tobacco corner and the first swimming pool chicane. That's exactly where he lost most of the time on Russell.
Who wins the battle in the chasing pack?
McLaren made the best impression. Even Mercedes has respect for Lando Norris. "He's the only one from the field of pursuers who could still spit us in the soup," says an engineer. McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl was only happy about the perfect start to training two cars in the top 7, but then had to swallow the bitter pill of Daniel Ricciardo's accident
The Australian also blamed the car set-up: "We tried something and overshot the mark." Positive insight from Seidl: " We already showed in Barcelona that we improved in the slow corners.
The Alpha Tauri drivers came closest to the McLaren. Pierre Gasly was confident: "I'm not yet 100 percent happy with my car, but we were at the front end of the middle field all day. That's a good sign."
At Alpine, on the other hand, the flags were at half-mast. The first practice session was a total disappointment: "No grip, no balance, lots of bouncing," both drivers complained. Fernando Alonso at least made it into the top ten in the second practice session. But his soft long run, averaging 1m 18.888s over 15 laps, was a disappointment. Only Kevin Magnussen was even slower. Esteban Ocon didn't get anywhere on an alternative setup. "There's still a lot of work to be done."
Is Vettel's Aston Martin progressing?
Sebastian Vettel made it into the top ten in both training sessions. That was also the case in Barcelona.Now he has to implement the good basis in the qualification. The engineers expected their car to look better in Monte Carlo. "We are now more free in the choice of ground clearance and suspension travel. With the A version we would now be at the bottom. There was only one option: low and hard."
The famous street circuit has also become a new track for Monaco connoisseur Vettel: "It feels completely different with the new cars. The biggest difference is the larger tyres. You have a completely different view of things ahead Then the cars are sprung so hard that even the curve in the tunnel is no longer easy."
The two-time Monte Carlo winner isn't quite sure which way to go with the setup: "We tried a few new things today and now we have to see from the data what works best."
Is last year's pole position in jeopardy?
The soft tire is a perennial favorite. Charles Leclerc set his best time on the third attempt, Carlos Sainz on the fifth. With a time of 1:12.656 minutes, he is 2.310 seconds away from last year's pole position. If you assume last year's track improvement over the two training days, then the best time of 2021 will not quite be reached. The cars were 2.1 seconds faster. The speed in Monte Carlo surprised.
Actually, many factors spoke for a much larger time delta between old and new cars. The 2022 vehicles are 46 kilograms heavier. They have less downforce at speeds below 260 km/h because the underbody is not yet developing its full effect. The suspension travel is less, which speaks for poorer traction. The pilots see the vertices worse.
Nevertheless, the lap times are appealing. One reason is that the new Pirelli tires provide more grip. And that the weight factor plays a smaller role in Monte Carlo than elsewhere. The lap time increases by 0.19 seconds for every ten kilograms.
Why is there bouncing in Monte Carlo?
Almost all pilots complain about bouncing. And that in Monte Carlo, where full throttle is only driven longer in two places. The cars reach the slope up to the casino at 260 km/h. In the tunnel it is 290 km/h. And that's exactly where the cars were shaken up in the first practice session.
The reasons for this are obvious. Ground effect cars have to be driven low and hard so that the underbody generates contact pressure. The new 18-inch tires have much less spring comfort. That's why the cars rock on the bumps on the two fastest parts of the track.
Lewis Hamilton initially spoke of "bouncing" on the radio, but later corrected himself: "It's not aerodynamic bouncing, it's touching down because of the bumps. It was so bad at times that you were afraid your eyes would fall out of their sockets ."
The first swimming pool chicane is extremely tricky.Two bumps lurk in the middle. In the past, dampers and springs swallowed it up. Now the cars dance nervously like racehorses over the bumps.
Sebastian Vettel barely avoided a crash. Daniel Ricciardo landed roughly in the wall. In the second practice, many teams tried to slightly increase the suspension travel. Hamilton praised: "It was a little better in the second practice session. The art is to find a mobile balance."