23 May 2013
Rosberg fastest again to top day one in Monaco
Nico Rosberg again proved to be the class of the field as F1 practice finished on day one of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg continued to mark himself out as the early favourite for success in the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix after posting the fastest time in both Thursday practice sessions.
Although anyone in the pit-lane will insist that day one performance counts for little at any grand prix, Rosberg's front-running form is an extension of Mercedes' recent qualifying performances, which have seen the German and team-mate Lewis Hamilton claim pole position at the last three rounds, and, with the 2008 world champion slotting into P2 on Thursday afternoon, there is little to dissuade those backing the Silver Arrows this weekend.
Rosberg, like everyone else in the field, managed to record faster times than in the opening 90-minute session, eventually set the opening day benchmark at 1min 14.759secs, and enjoyed a three-tenths advantage over his nearest rival. Perhaps more impressive, however, was that Mercedes achieved its post-lunch 1-2 whilst racking up 97 laps, running both Pirelli tyre options available for the weekend.
Behind Hamilton, Fernando Alonso kept up his role as chief opposition to Mercedes, leading Ferrari team-mate Massa in third spot, four-tenths off the pace. The Spaniard had been close to toppling Rosberg first time around, and was clearly on it again in FP2, but could not quite close the gap without having to catch his car.
Massa had just enough in hand to see off Red Bull's Mark Webber, the Australian surviving what appeared to be a bird strike to round out the top five, while Kimi Raikkonen – who appeared maybe best of all in race trim - and Romain Grosjean filled the next two spots for Lotus. Whether Grosjean could have been higher, even replicating the third spot he took in the morning session, was rendered moot by a meeting with the barrier at Ste Devote, the Frenchman carrying too much speed into the first turn before finding himself unable to overcome the resulting understeer.
The incident, which meant that he did not set a lap on either the softest Pirellis or in race set-up, could also have left Grosjean vulnerable to those behind, but closest man Jenson Button remained three-tenths shy of the Lotus as McLaren continued to get to grips with an MP4-28 that appeared very stiff over the bumps and kerbs of the street circuit. The Briton's team-mate, Sergio Perez, was even further back, in twelfth spot, but spent a lot of time having the floor of his car attended to. Despite that, the Mexican still managed to complete one more lap than Button, 41-40, as the pair sandwiched Sebastian Vettel and the two Force India drivers around the foot of the top ten.
Behind Perez, Nico Hulkenberg edged FP1 surprise Pastor Maldonado for 13th, while Esteban Gutierrez, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Valtteri Bottas followed at regular intervals. A bigger gap extended between the midfield and the four remaining cars, where Jules Bianchi held the upper hand over Charles Pic. Giedo van der Garde brought up the rear, but had several potentially faster runs on the softer rubber scuppered by traffic and Grosjean's incident.
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