F1

Rosberg again tops practice, in Monaco

Rosberg again tops practice, in Monaco

His percentage might be slipping and his conversion rate abysmal but Williams F1 No. 1 Nico Rosberg maintained a remarkable run of topping practice times Thursday with fast time in second practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of...

His percentage might be slipping and his conversion rate abysmal but Williams F1 No. 1 Nico Rosberg maintained a remarkable run of topping practice times Thursday with fast time in second practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monaco.

Nico Rosberg, Williams F1 Team.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The driver for whom the race is truly his home Grand Prix -- many drivers live in the principality but the son of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg actually grew up there -- scooted round the most famous piece of racing real estate in 1 minute, 15.243 seconds on a sunny afternoon to mark a ninth practice led in 17 held. His secret is low fuel. To date his practice pace has not translated into race-finish points: with 4.5 points, he trails points leader Jenson Button by 36.5.

Rosberg led Lewis Hamilton for McLaren Mercedes, the Brawns of Rubens Barrichello and Button, Felipe Massa for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull, Heikki Kovalainen for McLaren, and Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari. Rosberg teammate Kazuki Nakajima was ninth followed by Renault's Nelson Piquet, just ahead of his team leader Fernando Alonso, who was trailed by Red Bull's Mark Webber, Force India's Adrian Sutil, Toyota's Jarno Trulli, Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi again ahead of teammate Sebastien Bourdais, BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, and Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella.

The importance of rubber going onto the street circuit showed clearly in the difference between best afternoon time, Rosberg's 1:15.243, and Barrichello's 1:17.189 that topped morning practice.

Barrichello led the concerted efforts of McLaren Mercedes and Ferrari. The Mercedes-powered Brawn led Massa, Hamilton and Kovalainen, and Raikkonen.

By afternoon, a rush to the top at one time or other put both McLaren drivers, Barrichello, Massa, Button, Nakajima and Alonso atop timesheets. By session's end, eight runners were under the 1:15 mark, four of them under Massa's pole time of 1:15.787 from last year.

At the wrong end of things were BMW Sauber, Toyota and Red Bull.

Apparently not content with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures, the German-Swiss outfit created their own dark cloud, first with braking problems that restricted laps for drivers Robert Kubica and Heidfeld in first practice, then with a big, blue engine exhalation as Kubica began his first timed lap of second practice. The Pole's practice was a scratch.

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Toyota runners Glock and Trulli, trying new front wings, couldn't climb off the bottom of charts in the morning then couldn't crack the top 10 by afternoon. After showing great promise to start the season, the team seems to be heading backwards. Trulli is a past winner of this race.

Red Bull, trying a new rear diffuser, ran into engine and braking problems. Vettel suffered engine problems in the first outing and needed a replacement. Webber complained of a vibration at the rear of his RB5. Vettel managed enough afternoon laps to go sixth-quick, Webber 12th.

Brawn GP, whose technical prowess now extends to Twittering, showed up with a new rear wing. Their slide on ice continues.

Speaking of sliding, Sutil topped the straight-line speed measurements in his Mercedes-powered Force India VJM02. The German will forever be remembered as the unfortunate who last year lost what would have been the independent team's first points when Ferrari's Raikkonen had a lurid control-loss moment coming out of the tunnel that ended in the back of fourth-running Sutil's VJM01.

Just to ensure rubber on the runoffs, Sutil, Massa, Webber, Vettel and Bourdais went off at Ste. Devote, and Glock spun there. Rosberg took the long line at Mirabeau. Barrichello managed a close-up with a wall.

Speaking of rubber, Bridgestone has supplied the two softest of four compounds available for the extra-slippy course. Heretofore, rules have dictated compounds offer a wider choice.

"Today was a typical first day in Monaco," Williams technical director Sam Michael said. "We have spent some time looking at the two tires in the context of a track that is changing hugely compared to a normal track. As a street circuit, all the contaminants are getting cleaned off by the F1 rubber, so it's too early to say where the car is. All the parts we brought here seem to be working well."

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