Fernando Alonso moved to the top of the timesheets in Thursday’s second practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, with the Ferrari driver showing a significant turnaround in the team’s recent fortunes by heading the running order for much of the afternoon’s running.
The Spaniard finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg by less than two-tenths of a second, while Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa completed the top-six, all posting fastest laps within one second of Alonso’s best, a time of 1:15.123 posted on Pirelli’s super-soft tyres.
Sporting a special one-off gold helmet design for the most glamorous race on the F1 calendar, Alonso was lucky to avoid a near-collision with team-mate Massa early in the session, when he came across the Brazilian at the Swimming Pool complex on a slow lap.
Quickest on the ‘soft’ compound Pirelli tyres with a time of 1:16.408, Alonso then switched to the ‘super-soft’ option tyres – this being the first session where teams could run them – mid-way through the session. Vettel made the switch slightly earlier and leapt to the top of the timing screens, but his reign was all too brief as Alonso quickly redressed the balance with the fastest lap of the session.
The other leading teams set about closing the gap to Alonso, and they progressively edged closer as the track became grippier and as the drivers found more confidence – not to mention a better than expected level of durability – on the ultra-soft rubber.
Seventh-fastest was Michael Schumacher, whose Mercedes GP mechanics showed a great turn of pace to repair the damage to his W02 chassis caused by his accident at Sainte Devote in first practice.
Eighth-fastest and some 1.5 seconds down on Alonso was Mark Webber, who was dialling himself into the track after missing the first practice session when his Red Bull was hit with a gearbox problem. The Australian suffered more misfortune in this session, with his troublesome KERS against making its presence felt.
The top ten was completed by Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld, and at this stage is does not look like Renault will show the race-winning pace they had predicted for Monaco.
The session had a couple of off-track moments for some of the field, with the repaired tarmac at Sainte Devote (performed after a truck caught fire there on Wednesday) catching some of the drivers out. Maldonado, Alguersuari, Kovalainen (twice) and Glock all had moments there, while Vitaly Petrov damaged his Renault at the exit of the tunnel, at the same place where Vitantonio Liuzzi damaged his HRT in the first practice session.
Liuzzi failed to completed any laps in this session when, after the repairs were carried out to his F111 chassis following his crash, an hydraulics problem was discovered that kept him confined to the garage.
Slowest of the actual runners was Narain Karthikeyan, who posed a best same some two seconds slower than the next-slowest runner (Timo Glock) and some 6.9 seconds off the pace. The Spanish team – which had hopes of being ahead of the equally-struggling Virgin Racing outfit this weekend – will need to find some considerable pace if it wants to have its cars make the grid in Saturday qualifying.
And speaking of qualifying, it looks to be a genuinely fascinating prospect, with four different constructors featuring in the top-five places on the timesheets. Early indications will make predicting pole position a particular challenge…
2011 Monaco Grand Prix – Free Practice 2 Session Times:
|1.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||1:15.123||42|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 0.105||33|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 0.198||44|
|4.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 0.325||38|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.544||46|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.658||45|
|7.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 1.233||33|
|8.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 1.519||42|
|9.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 1.978||46|
|10.||Nick Heidfeld||Renault R31||+ 2.003||38|
|11.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 2.214||35|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 2.418||47|
|13.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 2.447||39|
|14.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 2.458||32|
|15.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 2.510||49|
|16.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 2.583||37|
|17.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 2.666||43|
|18.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus Renault T128||+ 3.143||50|
|19.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||+ 3.367||39|
|20.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 3.930||15|
|21.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 4.062||40|
|22.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 4.215||35|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 6.943||33|
|24.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||no time||0|
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