By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
- Business as usual for Sebastian Vettel
- Maldonado surprises with seventh time
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets after a last minute flying lap at the Monaco street circuit on Thursday morning. Just minutes after Fernando Alonso had set the fastest time lapping the circuit in 1m16.732s, the German finished his lap in 1m16.619s, pipping the Spaniard with just 0.113s.
Both drivers had been battling for the fastest time during the closing stages of practice, while Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg landed third position for Mercedes GP with a time of 1m17.139s, a little over half a second slower than Vettel.
The first practice session took place under ideal conditions: a bright blue sky with an air temperature of 24C and a track temperature of 27C.
Not a good day for Mark Webber, after he had completed two very slow laps some 45 minutes into the session, he came back into the Red Bull garage, and it soon became apparent the Australian had problems with his gearbox. His mechanics worked hard to fix the problem, but ran out of time and Webber ended the morning session in 24th and last place without a timed lap.
Felipe Massa had been very fast all morning and halfway the session he was even the quickest driver on track, at the end of the morning he brought his Ferrari home in fourth place with a time of 1m17.316, just one-tenth of a second slower than Rosberg.
Lewis Hamilton was the fastest McLaren driver and crossed the finish line in fifth position, like all drivers he experienced traffic problems and had to abort his runs several times before his finally found the space to set his fastest lap.
He was followed by his team mate Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion experienced problems with his KERS 88 minutes into the session, but nevertheless managed to improve on his time before the chequered flag was waved, the Briton became sixth with a lap time of 1m17.534s.
Venezuelan rookie Pastor Maldonado felt at home at Monaco, he was one of the first on the circuit trying to get as much experience as he could on the difficult twisty circuit, and he became the surprise of the day when he took seventh position, albeit 1.908s behind leader Vettel. Maldonado outpaced his experienced Williams team colleague Rubens Barrichello who scored 13th position.
Adrian Sutil was the fastest Force India driver and took eighth place with a time of 1m18.578s, only 0.011s slower than Maldonado, Force India’s Paul di Resta scored a disappointing 19th place, meaning he was almost five seconds slower than leader Vettel.
Vitaly Petrov was again the fastest Lotus Renault driver with 1m178.733s, which was good for ninth place, while Nick Heidfeld took11th, two-tenths of a second slower than the Russian.
Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher also had problems finding a gap for a clean lap, he was set to improve his time 82 minutes into the session, but the German missed his breaking point at Sainte Devote and his Mercedes ended up sideways in the barrier. He was unhurt, his car was removed quickly and the session was not interrupted by the incident.
Swiss Sebastien Buemi was 12th for Toro Rosso, his Spanish colleague Jaime Alguersuari spent the morning in the garage and watched how Toro Rosso test driver Daniel Ricciardo took 14th position, directly behind the Williams of Barrichello.
Sauber drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez were equally fast, the Japanese driver ended on 15th place, just 0.062 of a seconded ahead of Mexican Perez, who took 16th.
Heikki Kovalainen was the fastest of the Team Lotus drivers and put a time of 1m20.083 on the clock, almost 3.5 seconds slower than Vettel, but good enough for 17th position. He was followed by Jarno Trulli, the Italian being a full second slower than his Finnish Team mate.
As usual it was Marussia Virgin who finished the morning session ahead of HRT, Belgium Jerome d’Ambrosio took 20th, and German Timo Glock took 21st place.
Both HRT drivers Vitantionio Liuzzi and Nahrain Karthikeyan were the slowest drivers on track, Liuzzi took 22nd place with a time of 1m22.840s, 6.266 seconds slower than Vettel. Karthikeyan was a second slower than Liuzzi and took 23rd place.
It is expected drivers will set faster times during the second free practice session, as they have saved tyres to use them for the second session, when there will be more grip on the streets of Monaco.