Thursday, 21 May 2015

Hamilton leads the way once as rain hampers running in Free Practice 2

(Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team)

The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Lewis Hamilton picked up from where he left off this morning as the double world champion set the fastest time in a rain disrupted Free Practice session ahead of the Sunday’s 78 lap Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton set a fastest time of 1m 17.192s to finish 0.740s ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg. Speaking following the day of running, Hamilton commented saying:

'I had a great first day here. Every year, it stuns me how fast we have to think out there, with so much information coming at you, and you have to be more reactive and agile than anywhere else. The target is always to get on the pace as quick as you can and to be very specific and precise in the set-up changes you make, so you don't go down the wrong path. The balance today was not far off, so we have been tuning that with our programme, and there are still some areas to improve on. When it rained, we didn't need to take any risks so stayed in the garage, but the lap I did at the end showed that the black paint covering the white lines is even more slippery than the lines themselves! Now we need to work well tomorrow, make the right steps forward with the car, and pick up on Saturday where we left off today. '

Nico Rosberg commented:

'It's great to be back at this legendary circuit, the car felt great. Monaco is the highlight of the year for me. We are very quick here again, so I'm quite confident for this weekend. I didn't get it all together today, I had a lot traffic, so the next practice session on Saturday morning will be very important.'

Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff commented saying:

'It was a pretty satisfying first day here in Monaco, in unusually cool and then wet conditions. Lewis settled into his rhythm quickly and looked really confident out there today, topping both sessions. Nico had a good day too, running a little ahead of everybody else in FP1 and brushing the wall, which put him down the timesheets as the track improved - and then setting competitive times in FP2. The car is working well but there are still areas for us to improve before Saturday. There is a day's break in running but it will be busy tomorrow as we complete our preparations for the business end of the weekend. It will be an intense battle between both drivers and with our rivals. We're looking forward to it.'

Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe concluded by saying:

'It was a fairly trouble-free day and a solid start to the weekend. The rain for the majority of the second session reduced our planned running but nevertheless we covered all we needed to do today apart from running the Super Soft tyre. The conditions were a bit cooler than we expect over the weekend and this made it extremely hard to get the harder Prime tyre to work. Nico was slightly affected by a small brush with the barrier at Tabac which caused some slight damage to the rear right wheel. We made some precautionary changes to the front suspension between the sessions but fortunately everything looked fine with the car. Overall, we’re happy with the pace of the car so far, but the changeable conditions today mean we still have a lot of work to do in the final practice session on Saturday to perfect the setup for qualifying.'

Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third fastest just ahead of his team mate Kimi Raikkonen in the second SF15-T. Infiniti Red Bull Racing Daniil Kvyat was fourth fastest for the Milton Keynes based outfit as the four time world champions look to discover some form following a tough start to their 2015 season. Speaking after the session Kvyat stated:

'The car felt alright today and we are heading in a good direction I think; I did a couple of good times. Monaco is a unique track, a bit unusual and I think the package we have is working well so far. We had a limited run in second practice because of the rain, but we were able to get enough laps in the wet to get a feel for how the car handles. The re-surfacing has made the track slightly smoother and changes to the swimming pool entry are good. We have the day off tomorrow here and we’ll start again on Saturday with better weather hopefully.”'

After ending the opening session in fifth place, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz ended the second session in 6th place 1.590s behind Lewis Hamilton. The Spaniard finished ahead of team mate Max Verstappen who was the star of the opening session this morning after finishing the session in second place.

Fernando Alonso had an encouraging afternoon session for McLaren Honda as the Spaniard finished the session inside the top ten in eighth place, 1.714s behind Hamilton which will come as boost to the Woking based outfit.

Following a tough session this morning Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s Nico Hulkenberg finished the afternoon session in ninth place just ahead of the Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean. The top ten was separated by 2.074s. Speaking following the session Hulkenberg stated: 

'I think the morning session was pretty straightforward and the one from which we can draw the most positives. I could only manage one run in the afternoon before the rain came and it would have made little sense to run given that the rest of the weekend will have very different conditions. It’s a logical decision for the team, but it’s a shame for the fans as they didn’t get to see much running in FP2. We still managed to go through most of our preparation work that we would normally do on a Friday: there is room for improvement with our set-up, but we still have time ahead of qualifying.'

Romain Grosjean commented by saying:

'We had a good day. Pastor was happy this morning, I was more happy with the car this afternoon. It’s a track where you really need to drive to find the best set up and we made some good progress today so I’m happy with that. Of course the rain in the afternoon wasn’t ideal to evaluate the super soft tyres but we’re going to do that on Saturday morning. Preparing for qualifying tends to be the focus at this race; no one did a long run today but I don’t think it’s very important to do one here. Saturday morning will be about prepping qualifying again and having two sets of super softs will be good!'

Sergio Perez in the second Sahara Force India ended the session just outside the top ten in eleventh place just ahead of the Williams Martini Racing Team’s Felipe Massa. Speaking following the session, Perez commented saying:

'We achieved even more than we expected this morning and managed to include some long runs in our programme. We did some experimentation with our tyres and, although the track conditions were not ideal, we decided to try some higher fuel runs. We learnt a lot this morning and we were quite optimistic about the afternoon session, but unfortunately the rain cut the amount of running we could do. We couldn’t do all of the tyre testing we hoped for, but we should be able to do that in FP3 and have enough time to study the data ahead of qualifying. What matters is that the car is giving me the confidence to push it hard, which is really important around a place like Monaco.'

Valtteri Bottas was 13th fastest in the second Williams FW37, the Finn ended the afternoon just ahead of the Lotus F1 Team’s Pastor Maldonado who ended the session 2.385s behind pace setter Lewis Hamilton. Speaking following the session, Maldonado stated:

'The car didn’t go badly today, maybe even better than we expected. Of course, the track improves a lot lap by lap so it’s difficult to determine where you are exactly, but it was a good day even if we were interrupted by the rain in the afternoon. This meant we didn’t get time to run with the super softs, but I think we should have time on Saturday morning and it will be interesting to see how the car reacts to the softer compound. Of course, qualifying in Monaco is always very important so we’ll do our best to get the car where we want it for then.'

While Fernando Alonso ended the session in eighth place, his McLaren Honda team mate Jenson Button had a difficult session as the 2009 champion end the day in 15th place just ahead of Infiniti Red Bull Racing ‘s Daniel Ricciardo who had a tough day on the greasy circuit ended the session 2.447s behind Hamilton. Ricciardo comment by saying:

'The car felt good today, I think we’re more or less where we need to be and on the right track. With each passing race, we are managing issues better and if we put a good lap in for quali, we’ll hopefully be in a good position. I think some teams are catching up to Ferrari but it will still require a big effort to get in front of them. But hopefully we can get ahead of the Williams. We’ll see how we go on Saturday.'

Felipe Nasr ended the day in 17th place for the Sauber F1 Team. The Brazilian ended the day just ahead of the Manor Marussia duo of Roberto Merhi who brought out the red flag early on in the session after making contact with the barrier coming out of the tunnel and Will Stevens. Speaking following the session, Nasr stated:

'It was not an easy day for us. In the morning it was difficult to get the front tyres to work properly. This was influenced by cooler temperatrues and also a lack of downforce. In FP2 we did a couple of laps before the rain started. We identified that our main limitation at the moment is not a lot of traction. We need to improve that for Saturday.'

Marcus Ericsson commented by saying:

'In the morning session the concern was on the set-up side. We were not able to complete as many laps as I would have liked. But thekilometers that we drove took us forward from run to run with regard to the speed and confidence in the Sauber C34-Ferrari. At the beginning of the afternoon session an ERS problem occurred and, therefore, the second free practice session was over for me. That's a shame, but the disadvantage is very limited due to the rain – anyway not many laps would have been possible. I am still looking forward to the weekend.'

© Ben Johnston 2015

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