The sixth round of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship began with practice Thursday at Circuit de Monaco as teams prepared for the 76th Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
Two 90-minute sessions – FP1 and FP2 – on the 3.337-kilometer (2.074-mile), 19-turn track allowed drivers to methodically build speed and lower their lap times on a circuit that has remained relatively unchanged since it first saw racecars in 1929. We catch up with our team’s involved:
At the end of the two free practice sessions, on a track that was rapidly evolving and with lap times consistently going down, Scuderia Ferrari drivers Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen came away with the third and fifth best times in P2 respectively, while the SF71H showed a consistent pace in race-trim simulation.
Kimi Raikkonen: “This first day was not too bad, a pretty normal Thursday”, Kimi said. “The feeling with the car was not too bad, but this track is always quite tricky to start with, and we were trying many different things. The drive around the circuit is a bit more complicated than in other places; it’s easier to end up making a big mistake, while in a normal place you would just end in a run-off area. You need to be more careful and start pushing when you feel that everything is all right. For sure there are things to improve, but we were able to do what was planned and managed to stay out of trouble. It’s difficult to have a clear picture; in many practice sessions we have seen some cars being very fast on Friday and then in qualifying it’s a different case. Let’s wait and see what happens on Saturday”.
Sebastian Vettel: “I think it was a decent day. In Monaco there’s always traffic, and today we had the red flag, so that it was a bit messy. It’s not that easy to get everything together in a lap here. I am not entirely happy about the second and the last sector. So, I think there’s something we can do better. I believe we got the best out of the tires and on Saturday it will be very close.
There isn’t more pressure on this track than on the others, but I think it’s more fun. The track is very challenging and you have no room for mistakes but it’s quite enjoyable. You think twice before trying something here. However, I have a good feeling with the car. Today I trusted my car and even if I was sliding a little bit, I knew I wouldn’t have touched the barrier. We still need to improve, but generally it’s good fun driving around”.
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1:
The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team completed the first day of free practice sessions at the Circuit de Monaco ahead of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix. It was the first time for Monegasque rookie, Charles Leclerc, to experience the streets of his hometown in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car. It was a productive day for Marcus Ericsson as well. Both drivers worked in preparation for the race on the city circuit of Monaco where the track layout is particularly challenging for the team; despite the track demands with high levels of downforce, they are optimistic for tomorrow’s sessions, with the gaps between all competitors being very close.
Marcus Ericsson: “It has been quite a good day. It is important to get in a lot of laps on Thursday in Monaco, so that is a positive for us. We struggled a bit of the hypersoft tyres, but apart from that it was a smooth day. We built up the speed and have a good base to work from for Saturday and Sunday. I look forward to the rest of the weekend.”
Charles Leclerc: “It was a productive day for us. It ran quite smoothly overall. We know that this track is going to be a challenge for us, and we have used today’s practice sessions to start setting up our car in the best possible way. We will now look at our data and start working on preparations for tomorrow’s qualifying session. I look forward to being back in the car.”
Haas F1 Team:
Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen faced adversity in FP1, each with differing outcomes. After both completed an installation lap on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire, their baseline stints that followed became problematic. Magnussen turned just seven laps before an issue relating to the fuel system relegated him to the garage. He wound up 20th on the speed chart with a best lap of 1:18.801 earned on his sixth tour.
Grosjean lost 50 minutes of valuable running after brushing the wall at Tabac (turn 12) toward the end of his maiden run. A new floor was needed on his Haas VF-18, and after the time-consuming fix was completed, only 10 minutes remained in the session. Grosjean made the most of the time, clocking a best lap of 1:13.943 on the 18th of his 24 laps, good for ninth overall.
FP2 remained a frustrating affair for Haas F1 Team, but for different reasons than FP1. Traffic on the shortest track on the Formula One calendar conspired against both drivers, with each struggling to find a clean lap. A 15-minute red flag stoppage to better secure manhole covers on the street circuit also limited on-track running.
Despite those hurdles, they still managed to better their times from FP1. Magnussen was 16th quickest with a lap of 1:13.572, which was 5.229 seconds better than his best lap from his truncated FP1 session. Grosjean fell to 18th fastest, but his quick time of 1:13.763 was still .18 of a second better than his best FP1 time.
Romain Grosjean: “We haven’t been able to find a sweet spot on the car and we haven’t found the grip we wanted to have for around here. Obviously, we’re not very happy with the positions. Hopefully, we’re going to get the tires to work better, get the grip out of them, and then the performance should rise quite nicely. Right now, we’re not looking like we’d make it to Q3, but it’s about finding the grip on the track. I’m sure the engineers are going to work really hard and get everything in the window with the tires, the temperature, and make sure we get the grip out of them. If we do so, the car’s been really good everywhere, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t be competitive.”
Kevin Magnussen: “Obviously, we’re not where we wanted to be today, in terms of pace, and also in terms of not getting much running in FP1. I’m hoping for a better day on Saturday. We’ve got lots of time to work on the car with having Friday off, at least from driving, and we can think a lot more about the setup. Hopefully, we’ll improve the situation for qualifying. The whole field is very tight, so even though it looks bad position-wise, we don’t have to find that much time to go quite a bit forward.”
The Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen led the way in FP1, with Ricciardo’s quick time of 1:12.126 besting his teammate by .154 of a second and easily eclipsing the previous track record of 1:12.178 set by Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen in qualifying for last year’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Ricciardo and Verstappen remained the front runners in FP2. Ricciardo’s lap of 1:11.841 set a new benchmark, with Verstappen .194 of a second behind.