Nico Rosberg threw another name into the ring as potential polewinner for the Monaco Grand Prix, but Spanish GP surprise Pastor Maldonado may have removed his candidature after a bout of automotive fisticuffs with Sergio Perez.
After the time lost to red flags, green track surfaces and rain on Thursday, and with 24 hours to pore over the data the opening day churned out, the teams had a lot to get through in the final hour of action before qualifying in the Principality. None exemplified the lack of knowledge of what to expect than Ferrari, which sent Fernando Alonso out with his rear wing again masked yellow by flo-vis paint, while Kimi Raikkonen immediately started banging in the laps after having had to sit out the entire Thursday morning session.
Raikkonen and Rosberg traded the initial benchmark times, before Paul di Resta briefly got in on the act for Force India, but it was Lotus' Romain Grosjean who looked most impressive in the early stages, reeling off a string of fastest laps and taking the target time down below 1min 16secs for the first time.
The Frenchman remained at the head of the pile for some time, until Rosberg bolted on a set of Pirelli's supersoft tyres and immediately gained in performance as a result. Having moved into P1, the Mercedes driver then took a full half-second of his time next lap around, posting a 1min 15.159secs effort that would remain unbeaten to the end of the hour.
In reality, for the second day, the session failed to get a full allocation of track action as, once again, red flags flew in the closing minutes. The cause this time was the stricken Williams of Maldonado, which made heavy contact with the inside
barrier at Casino Square before then losing its left-rear corner on the opposite side of the road. That would have been enough to move the Venezuelan some way down the scale from hero towards zero after his Barcelona success, but television replays then proceeded to show the volatile South American throwing his car at Perez at Portier on the previous lap. While the Williams team may have been able to give Maldonado a repaired car in order to chase a good qualifying result, the stewards may not be so forgiving....
Maldonado ended the session down in 21st spot, ahead only of Charles Pic and the two HRTs but, at the other end of the field, Felipe Massa staked his claim for an unexpected run at pole with second fastest time, ahead of world champion Sebastian Vettel - who had earlier been plagued by understeer - Fernando Alonso and Grosjean. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, in the two McLarens, were next up in sixth and seventh, while Michael Schumacher, Perez and Mark Webber rounded out the top ten.
Raikkonen, for all his early pacesetting, wound up twelfth, but appeared to be working more on race pace while his younger team-mate hammered around in search of a qualifying set-up. There were also incidents aside from those involving Maldonado, with Jean-Eric Vergne twice messing up at the Swimming Poll, Kamui Kobayashi disappearing down the Mirabeau escape road, di Resta crunching the nose of his car after finding the notorious bump between tunnel and chicane, and Lewis Hamilton escaping a monster lock-up heading into Ste Devote. Only Maldonado, however, appears to have concerns before qualifying.