Jenson Button’s McLaren showed the way, as practice for the famed Monaco GP started in earnest Thursday on the Cote D’Azur street circuit, leading the way with a fast trip of 1:15.746.
Button, looking to become the first repeat Formula 1 race winner of the 2012 season, outpaced the Lotus of Romain Grosjean by 0.326 seconds to claim the day’s bragging rights, while Grosjean showed that he is a threat to make it six different winners in as many races as he was second in both of the day’s outings.
The morning session was led by the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who swapped the top place on the speed sheets back and forth with Grosjean, with Sauber’s Sergio Perez close behind. The battle was muted however when Heikki Kovalainen’s Renault powerplant grenaded in the tunnel, ending the session 10 minutes early. Kovalainen’s Caterham outfit was able to get him back on track for the second practice.
The second practice session was a choppy affair as impending rain sent everybody on course at the drop of the green flag. Button roared out and became the only driver of the day to break the 76-second barrier before the rains came 15 minutes later. Grosjean was followed by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Alonso with surprise Spain GP winner Pastor Maldonado rounding out the top five. The top five cars were the only ones to break 77 seconds on the day.
The rains abated at the 30-minute mark and enticed some of the teams to put on the slicks for more running, but those moves came just in time to greet a second shower of rain. The track did dry toward the end of the session but a full line never materialized, keeping the times down.
As is the custom, there will be no F1 practice on Friday at Monaco, but action will get back underway Saturday morning with practice, followed by qualifying for the Grand Prix of Monaco.