Whether it was the surprising pace shown by Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull, or simply Ferrari struggling to adapt to the Monaco circuit with its 2016 car, but Sebastian Vettel looked out of sorts on day one of F1's most glamorous event.
Although he managed third place in FP1, the German admitted that he and the team had perhaps gone in the wrong direction during the afternoon session, resulting not only in a relatively lowly ninth place on the timesheets, but also a couple of costly brushes with the Armco.
“We tried something this afternoon which maybe wasn't as good as expected and, on top of that, we didn't get the rhythm, didn't get the laps in, with the ultrasoft,” Vettel revealed, “I certainly tried a lot, but not everything worked and, yeah, overall it was a bit of a scrappy day. I think overall it's okay, and I think the pace is in the car, but I just struggled a bit to get it out today.”
Vettel's first faux pas came as he backed the SF16-H into the barriers at Mirabeau, damaging its rear wing against the SAFER Barriers, but he managed to return to the pits, where repairs were made in time for him to rejoin the session. Not long afterwards, however, he smote the exit of Ste Devote a glancing blow, but it was enough to damage a wheel rim, again forcing him back to the garage.
“Today, we didn't have a good day,” he conceded, “I don't know exactly what happened to Kimi [Raikkonen], but it's fair to say that just inside the top ten is not where we belong… We are not here to race for eighth or fifth, we are here to win.”
Having arrived in Monaco expecting to chase the two Mercedes, Vettel occupied that position after FP1, but was as surprised as everyone else when Ricciardo turned in the only sub 1min 15secs lap of the day to put his Red Bull – complete with uprated Renault V6 – comfortably at the top of the timesheets. Despite Ferrari appearing to be relegated to third best – or fourth if the presence of Toro Rosso in fifth and sixth positions is real – Vettel insisted that there would be more to come from the Scuderia when action resumes on Saturday morning.
“In the end, it's Friday [sic], so it's difficult to say what people did but, on the other hand, there is not a lot of secrets to be kept here,” he reasoned, “As I said, we didn't have a good day, so I don't think we belong [in P9]. We will be a lot better on Saturday but, for today, it was not the main focus to run high up and, as I said, the running we had was a bit scrappy. We tried a couple of things, and it's fair to say some of them didn't work.”