Full GP2 practice session times
Jolyon Palmer put DAMS at the top of the timing screens on Thursday, his lap of 1:20.707s proving 0.0336s faster than the Trident of Johnny Cecotto Jr. who was Palmer's nearest challenger with some smooth driving but who was thwarted by slow traffic on a key flying lap.
Also looking fast at Monaco this weekend are Palmer's team mate Stephane Richelmi who was third fastest ahead of local boy Stefano Coletti in the Racing Engineering car, while Russian Time's Mitch Evans was fifth fastest ahead of Trident's Sergio Canamasas and Caterham's Rio Haryanto.
Felipe Nasr was eighth fastest despite having caused a red flag stoppage after he overcooked his exit from the tunnel and ran over the kerbs through the chicane. That briefly got him airborne and left him no effective control of the Carlin so that he ran into a hard stop in the outside Armco barrier. He had been in second place in the timings when the accident happened, but significantly it came before he could complete a full flying lap on the supersoft options.
Early leaders out on the track had been the DAMS pair of Richelmi (1:24.763s) and then Jolyon Palmer (1:24.280s), with Coletti (1:24.314s) then going to the top ahead of Rapax's Simon Trummer (1:23.570s). Further improved laps followed which saw Nasr go top (1:22.508s) ahead of a significantly better time from Cecotto (1:22.573s).
Coletti subsequently retook the top spot from Nasr with a lap of 1:22.368s but was quickly beaten by Cecotto (1:22.204s) and then Nasr (1:21.949s) with everyone seemingly able to find increasing speed as more rubber was laid down on the racing line. Coletti was able to respond, and put his local knowledge to good use by going 0.047s faster than Nasr to reclaim his place at the head of the timing screen once more, after which the drivers returned to pit lane for their usual mid-session tweaks and a change to faster tyres.
After the red flag, Cecotto displaced Coletti with an impressive lap of 1:21.544s despite being held up by the dawdling Hilmer Motorsport car of Facu Regalia, but the Venezuelan was immediately dropped to second by Palmer who found an extra eight tenths of a second on the rest of the field with his switch to the supersoft options. While Cecotto closed the gap with his final run, no one was in a position to seriously challenge Palmer for the session honours as the clock ran out.
It had been unseasonably chilly day with overcast skies, a stiff breeze and even a few drops of rain in the minutes before the scheduled start of the session by a few minutes before the drivers got their first taste of the unique street course around the streets of Monte Carlo.
The conditions along with slick resurfaced parts of the track pointed toward inevitable incidents on the tight and twisty circuit, and the first driver to get bitten on the 2.075-mile, 19-turn circuit was Nathanael Berthon, who put the nose of the Venezuela GP Lazarus #24 into the barrier at the exit of the final corner on his first flying lap. Canamasas also had a lock-up coming down the hill and took to the run-off area, but he was able to keep the car running and duly reversed back onto the track to resume, unlike the case with Nasr's subsequent more emphatic accident at Pontier which happened just before the half hour mark.
There was some late minor contact between Mitch Evans' front wing the rear of Andre Negrao's Arden as the field suddenly closed up in traffic through the final corners in the last seconds of the session. Negrao is back on duty this week after being forced out of the last round at Barcelona by a back injury; his stand-in replacement for that weekend, Tom Dillmann, had claimed a podium place in the sprint race on the Sunday.
Qualifying will now take place later today from 4.15pm local time (3.15pm BST) following the conclusion of the second F1 free practice session, and uniquely for Monaco it will be split into two groups of 13 cars each in order to try and manage the traffic jam overcrowding problems that invariably feature at Monaco.
The feature race is scheduled for Friday morning at 11.15am (10.15am BST) with 42 laps and a mandatory pit stop and tyre change; the sprint race is set for Saturday afternoon at 4.10pm (3.10pm BST) and will consist of 30 laps with no planned pit stops to manage. All sessions are available live in the UK on the Sky Sports F1
digital subscription channel.
With the circuit demanding a tyre with a rapid warm-up capable of delivering consistent mechanical grip throughout each of the many slow corners, teams have been issued with Pirelli's P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft tyres for the weekend.
Full GP2 practice session times are now available