The rain that hit practice for the Monaco Grand Prix today was forecast – it just showed up 24 hours earlier than expected...
A splash of rain can make for terrific races and exciting, unpredictable qualifying sessions. It does not have the same positive effect during practice. But the good news is it will keep us guessing about who’s quick and who’s not at Monaco – storing up some excitement to come on Saturday and Sunday.
Ferrari on form
What little running did take place gave further evidence that Ferrari have closed the gap on the front runners. Fernando led the first practice session quite convincingly, improving his time on the harder tyre as the track conditions improved. A spectacular engine failure for Heikki Kovalainen ten minutes from the end of the session kept us from seeing the best that the likes of McLaren were capable of.
Nonetheless Ferrari continued to show good pace in the brief moments of dry running in the second session. Felipe Massa was third, Alonso fourth, and one of the two cars in front of them (Jenson Button’s McLaren) had used the softer tyres to set a better time.
Remarkably, Ferrari haven’t won at Monaco in over a decade. Michael Schumacher scored their last victory in 2001. Alonso is a two-time winner at the track and looked very good here on his previous outings for the team. He was flying in practice in 2010 when he crashed, damaging his car so badly he had to start from the back of the grd.
Last year he took the fight to Sebastian Vettel and finished second, pressuring the Red Bull driver hard for the win. With a much improved F2012 underneath him this year, and the reliably fast and consistent Ferrari crew waiting for him in the pits, Alonso looks a strong tip for victory this year. He’s priced at 5.0 to win and 5.50 to take pole position.
Raikkonen odds rise after practice problems
Kimi Raikkonen did not enjoy a productive return to Monaco for the first time since 2009.
He declared himself unhappy with the handling of his car after one lap in the first session, and sat out the subsequent 90 minutes of running while his mechanics set to work on his steering system – not for the first time this year.
He was able to log some laps in second practice but, of course, much of that was in wet conditions. Meanwhile team mate Romain Grosjean was second-fastest in both sessions. As a result, Raikkonen’s odds for pole position are now longer than his rookie team mate’s – 12.0 versus 10.0.
The long-shot Saubers
Yesterday I tipped Sauber as the long-shots to watch at Monaco. At the moment Sergio Perez is priced at 30.0 to win and Kamui Kobayashi 50.0. The upgraded Sauber C31 looked convincing around the streets of Monaco today. Perez set the third-fastest time in the first practice session, less than half a second off Alonso. Kobayashi was three-tenths of a second behind in seventh.
Perez is hotly tipped by many as a Ferrari driver of the future – he’s on the team’s driver development programme. Some even suggest he could take the underperforming Massa’s place at the team this year.
He scotched the rumours taking to the official F1 website this week, saying, “should that situation really come about I would reject it as I would not want to make a switch in the middle of a season. I think all this hype about a possible switch is massively blown up by the media.” A switch this year may be out of the question but the Mexican driver has already shown he’s a star of the future.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula 1 blog F1 Fanatic