Renault's Fernando Alonso set the fastest time of the day in Thursday's practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix with a best of 1:15.835. His time was over a second quicker than Juan Pablo Montoya's best in the first session. Second fastest in...
Renault's Fernando Alonso set the fastest time of the day in Thursday's practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix with a best of 1:15.835. His time was over a second quicker than Juan Pablo Montoya's best in the first session. Second fastest in the afternoon was McLaren third driver Alex Wurz, just eight hundredths down on Alonso, and the Red Bull of David Coulthard was third.
The track temperature was up to the mid forties at the start of the second session and Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta was first to set a time, 1:22.568. Jordan counterpart Robert Doornbos took second then Kimi Raikkonen put his McLaren to the top, 1:19.082. Teammate Wurz took the second slot and Red Bull No.3 Christian Klien clocked third.
The Minardis of Patrick Friesacher and Christijan Albers took seventh and ninth and Raikkonen dropped his time to 1:17.720, leaving Wurz over two seconds adrift. Montoya's McLaren closed the gap to teammate Raikkonen to just over a tenth, until the Finn cracked out another flyer, 1:1:17.510 to widen the gap to three tenths.
Red Bull's Tonio Liuzzi slotted into third and the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello eighth, then Renault's Giancarlo took over the third slot. Ralf Schumacher's Toyota took sixth and the Williams' of Mark Webber and Nick Hiedfeld were seventh and eighth. Michael Schumacher posted fourth on his first flyer and Barrichello moved up to seventh.
Alonso put his Renault second, just a thousandth quicker than Montoya, and Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber joined in 11th. Michael improved to second, five hundredths astray of Raikkonen, and David Coulthard managed sixth in the Red Bull. Jarno Trulli's Toyota was some way down the field in 15th, while teammate Ralf went sixth.
Alonso moved to the top, 1:16:832, and Coulthard to fourth, as the positions changed rapidly. Ralf and Coulthard traded fourth a few times and Fisichella went up to third, while Felipe Massa joined thirteenth, one behind Sauber teammate Villeneuve. The Brazilian them improved to ninth and Fisichella to second, half a second off Alonso.
Massa climbed again, up to sixth, and Webber went up to 10th after being shuffled down the order, although Heidfeld was a lowly 15th. Liuzzi was the next man on the move, from 11th to the top of the times, 1:16.640 for nearly two tenths up on Alonso. Barrichello improved to seventh, while at the back of the field the Minardis and Jordans squabbled amongst themselves.
Alonso demoted Liuzzi from the top with a 1:15.835, eight tenths up, while Barrichello had a spin but managed not to hit anything. Fisichella reclaimed the second spot, closing the gap to Alonso only by a tenth, and Raikkonen moved into third. Wurz improved to fifth and Villeneuve to eighth, followed by Massa into sixth. Wurz then went up to second, the gap to Alonso three tenths.
Coulthard climbed to seventh after being moved down the order, then there was a quiet spell. Webber and Heidfeld were quietly lapping in 13th and 14th respectively and Massa improved his time but stayed sixth -- he was just on the edge of the second separating the to six. Friesacher improved to 18th to lead the backmarkers, although Narain Karthikeyan had yet to get his Jordan on track.
Albers clipped the barrier at Casino, the first victim of the weekend, and damaged the front wing, but managed to get back to the pits. Trulli moved up to 10th after languishing near the back for much of the session, and Wurz and Coulthard improved in tandem, Wurz staying second and Coulthard taking third.
In the last fifteen minutes Karthikeyan ventured out and Klien was next to have a brush with the barriers. He hit at Mirabeau and also damaged the front wing but managed to return to the pits. Zonta improved to eighth but Ralf immediately took the place off him. There were quite a few laps being put in but no big changes in the positions.
Montoya moved up to seventh and then to fifth, and Webber to 12th, but in the final minutes there was little action, except for Massa sliding into the tyre barrier at Ste Devote right at the end. It was not a big incident and aside from that the Brazilian had a good session to finish eighth overall.
"The set-up felt comfortable from the beginning, so there is not too much more to do but in any case, the track conditions are changing all the time on the first day, which means we look at the details of the set-up on Saturday," said Alonso. "The car feels consistent on the longer runs, so things are going perfectly at the moment."
Montoya was happy enough after being quickest in the morning. "The car felt pretty good straight away and we just kept working on the set-up, so I'm pretty happy," he commented. "The key to doing well here in Monaco is finding a strong set-up, and we are definitely going in the right direction. It will be a tough and interesting race, and I think we are in with a good chance."
Once again Renault and McLaren look to be on form, while Red Bull was quick around the street circuit. Toyota was fairly in touch but the rest didn't make much of an impression. However, as always, qualifying will be the first important test. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Wurz, Coulthard, Fisichella, Montoya, Raikkonen, Liuzzi, Massa.