Fernando Alonso has signalled his intention to add a third Monaco victory to his list of career achievements after a searing performance in free practice today.
So far this season both Ferrari drivers have resisted the urge to show-boat in the practice sessions, preferring low-key running and set-up work that left them well down the time-sheets, but today was a different matter.
Despite still not working on outright pace, in the morning session he edged Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel by a few hundredths of a second and in the afternoon he was more than a tenth of a second clear of Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg.
The latter had little running in the first session, spending half of it in the garage, and the question of whether the advantage at his team has now swung to Michael Schumacher remains unanswered as the pair shared the honours across the day.
The Red Bulls, untouchably fast in Barcelona, were up the front for most of the day with Mark Webber saying the team had made improvements in slow-speed running.
Domination of the top positions by the fastest four teams was disrupted by Renault’s Robert Kubica – third-fastest in the opening session and sixth in the second – and by Adrian Sutil of Force India who was ninth and eighth.
McLaren’s Jenson Button set a similar pace – eighth in the first session and ninth in the second – while Lewis Hamilton posted a pair of seventh-places.
Despite the unremarkable times they posted Hamilton was happy with his car, calling it “fantastic”. He said: “It’s light years ahead of last year’s car.
“Obviously, we weren’t at the top of the time sheets, but I’ve really been enjoying driving around here today. When you’re at Monaco, things just seem to happen so much faster than normal – it feels two or three times quicker than at other circuits. You’re always on the edge, and if you brake just a little bit too late, then you’ll be in the barrier. It’s an incredible feeling.
“Of course, everyone at the front of the grid is looking pretty competitive, but I think we should be okay. Qualifying’s going to be tough, I hope the weather stays okay for us and that we can fight for a spot in the top three.”
Button added: “This morning felt good, we went through some positive set-up changes and I felt pretty happy with the car. For P2, we made some further changes, but I don’t think all of them were an improvement and we went back in a few areas.
“Our long-run pace was good, so I’m feeling very happy about that. Tomorrow, we’ve still got a little bit of work to do to understand what’s best for low fuel and new tyres. But I think we understand where we’ve got to be, because we were on the pace this morning.
“Overall, the Ferrari looks very quick, and I’m pretty sure Red Bull are hiding their pace. But it’s the normal cars up at the front, and I’m sure we’ll get a better idea on Saturday morning. McLaren always produces a good car around Monaco, they’ve won 15 times around here – more than anyone else – so hopefully we can do well on Saturday.”
Ominously, Alonso confirmed there was more to come from Ferrari: “It’s only Thursday, so the main aim was to understand how the tyres work and get confident with the circuit. On this track a major set up change might give you half a tenth, but trusting your driving can see you gain half a second.
“I can understand that there could be a level of pessimism after the show of strength from Red Bull in Barcelona qualifying, but we know that here, having the right set-up can make more of a difference than pure aerodynamic downforce and we already have a good baseline, given that last year, Kimi nearly took pole with a car that was far off the F10 in terms of its potential.”
Practice two times
- Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: 1:14.904
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP: 1:15.013
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:15.099
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:15.120
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP: 1:15.143
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1:15.192
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:15.249
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:15.460
- Jenson Button, McLaren: 1:15.619
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:15.620
- Vitaly Petrov, Renault: 1:15.746
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:16.276
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:16.348
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1:16.522
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:16.528
- Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber-Ferrari: 1:16.599
- Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber-Ferrari: 1:16.818
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari: 1:17.023
- Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus: 1:18.184
- Lucas di Grassi, Virgin: 1:18.478
- Jarno Trulli, Lotus: 1:18.667
- Timo Glock, Virgin: 1:18.721
- Karun Chandhok, Hispania: 1:20.313
- Bruno Senna, Hispania: 1:22.148
Practice one times
- Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: 1:15.927
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:16.000
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1:16.016
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:16.382
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:16.517
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP: 1:16.589
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:16.647
- Jenson Button, McLaren: 1:16.692
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:16.805
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:16.857
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP: 1:17.149
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1:17.331
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:17.704
- Vitaly Petrov, Renault: 1:17.718
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:17.991
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:18.397
- Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber: 1:18.434
- Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber: 1:18.547
- Timo Glock, Virgin: 1:19.527
- Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus: 1:19.606
- Jarno Trulli, Lotus: 1:19.902
- Lucas di Grassi, Virgin: 1:20.566
- Bruno Senna, Hispania: 1:21.688
- Karun Chandhok, Hispania: 1:21.853