Williams third driver Alex Wurz was the fastest man of the day after Thursday's practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix, his afternoon time of 1:15.907 eight tenths quicker than Renault's Fernando Alonso was in the morning. Honda No.3 Anthony Davidson was second fastest in the afternoon and McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya was the top race driver in third.
Once again the third drivers were out in force to start with, Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber), Giorgio Mondini (MF1), Robert Doornbos (Red Bull), Wurz, Davidson and Neel Jani (Toro Rosso). Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers, the MF1 racers, were also quickly out, along with the Super Aguri of Franck Montagny.
There were a few quick changes at the top of the times initially, with Davidson's 1:18.123 getting the upper hand from Doornbos and Mondini. Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi took over the third spot and Jacques Villeneuve's BMW Sauber arrived in sixth. He moved up one to fifth and Davidson lowered his top time to 1:17.791.
Liuzzi moved into second and Nick Heidfeld put his BMW Sauber fourth on his first timed lap. The second Toro Rosso of Scott Speed was eighth and Takuma Sato's Super Aguri 10th. Heidfeld improved to second, a second off Davidson, and Speed to fifth, while Ralf Schumacher's Toyota started with 12th.
Michael Schumacher's Ferrari clocked fourth and Ralf moved up to eighth, then Michael did likewise to second, four tenths off Davidson. Heidfeld demoted the Ferrari and closed the gap to the Honda by a tenth. Kubica posted sixth and Villeneuve seventh and Jarno Trulli put his Toyota 10th behind teammate Ralf.
Montoya clocked fourth and improved to second on his next lap, then the session was red flagged briefly because a bollard needed to be cleared from the circuit. Once the track went green again Rubens Barrichello put his Honda 13th and David Coulthard's Red Bull edged into the bottom of the times with 20th.
Christian Klien's Red Bull clocked 13th and Alonso went straight to the top, 1:17.736. Coulthard jumped up to fourth and Nico Rosberg's Williams started with 19th. Barrichello improved to eighth and teammate Jenson Button arrived in 13th. Davidson went back to the top with a 1:16.075, over a second and a half up on Alonso.
Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault took third but the red flag came out again when Davidson hit the wall at Ste. Devote and damaged the front end. The Honda was quickly moved and the session resumed within a couple of minutes. After half an hour only the Williams of Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren had not set a time.
Felipe Massa's Ferrari clocked 11th and Villeneuve improved to third but almost immediately there was yet another red flag when Kubica hit the barriers at Rascasse. The BMW sustained some damage to the left rear and was stranded on the track but the delay was only brief. Mondini made a startling improvement to second when the session resumed.
It was short lived as Liuzzi took the position off him but he in turn was quickly replaced by Massa. Raikkonen got himself onto the time sheet in 12th then improved to fourth but was demoted a place by Alonso moving back up to second after being shuffled down the order. The Finn lost out further when Coulthard took the fifth spot.
Raikkonen rallied to move up to third, he and Alonso the only ones within a second of Davidson's best at the time. Doornbos and Montoya climbed to sixth and eighth respectively after being moved down the list then Doornbos improved again to second, four tenths off Davidson. Wurz took third and Massa seventh, while Webber made 19th.
There were one or two changes of position outside the top ten but not a great deal of activity on the time sheet, despite quite a few laps being put in. Trulli moved up to eighth and Button to seventh, while Monteiro put in a good effort for 12th. Coulthard took over eighth and in the final minutes there were a couple of late efforts.
Montoya improved to fourth after being edged down and Wurz clocked 1:15.907 to take over the top slot. Alonso posted third, after having similarly been moved down, then lost the place to Montoya as time ran out. That meant the Colombian was the fastest race driver, just over two tenths off Wurz.
"Today we worked mainly on race set-up, in order to get the car ready for Mark and Nico for Sunday," said Wurz. "I went through my tyre choice and I have to say the way the circuit is progressing, it is coming to us just as it did at the Nurburgring, which is good. This makes me quite confident and positive that we will have a good weekend."
Davidson was disappointed to end his session early. I made a small mistake when I locked up the inside front, hit the barrier at turn 1 and this unfortunately created a lot of damage to the left front of the car," he explained. "Up until that point the day had gone very well and the car was feeling really good, so it was a shame that we were unable to complete the tyre comparison."
Montoya was happy enough with his day's work. "A good start to the weekend for us," he commented. "We seem to be quite competitive and have definitely made progress but its still early days and this is Monaco after all where anything can happen. I completed the planned programme, and the new parts we have introduced seem to have made a difference."
The times were a little closer in this session, the top nine within a second, and Renault still looked the ones to beat. McLaren was improved, with both cars in the top six, while Ferrari had dropped back; Massa 10th was five places ahead of Michael. Honda and Red Bull looked not too far off the pace but the rest were a bit hit and miss.
The Toyotas were outside the top ten and the BMW and Williams cars were in the low midfield. The track is always very green on the first day at Monaco so no doubt that played a part but generally it was a standard beginning to the weekend. Final top eight classification: Wurz, Davidson, Montoya, Alonso, Doornbos, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Coulthard.