F1 Monaco - Mercedes and Ferrari in control of FP1

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Mercedes and Ferrari dominated the first practice session in Monaco. Nico Rosberg narrowly beat Fernando Alonso to go on top the timesheets. The duo’s teammates Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton were fourth and fifth, respectively.

No driver changes were made for the Monaco FP1. With so many rookie drivers at the bottom of the field, the backmarkers wanted to give their young full-time drivers the chance to get to know the track in the Principality better. Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez was the first competitor to record a timed lap in the morning, 37 minutes into the practice session. The early start, however, did not help the Saubers as both of their cars struggled considerably. Gutierrez’s best time was 1:18.754 (P16), while Nico Hulkenberg’s 1:18.193 was faster but still good enough only for P14.

It will be a hard weekend for the Saubers, especially as it seems that the Williams cars might end up taking some good points home on Sunday. Pastor Maldonado was very impressive around the streets of the Principality. The Venezuelan’s 1:16.993 put him in P6 at the end of the session.

Maldonado’s efforts are particularly notable, when compared to the performance of the Red Bull Racing cars in the morning practice session. Neither Webber, nor Vettel managed to set a time under 1:17.000. The Bulls do occasionally hide their cards in FP1, but this does not seem to be the case this weekend. Sebastian Vettel’s best lap of 1:17.380 was not only more than a second off the pace of the leaders, but also put the German behind both McLaren cars in the timesheets.

And while the Red Bulls were struggling for pace, the Mercedes cars were absolutely flying. Rosberg was consistently at or near the top of the table in the morning and his 1:16.195 was the best time of the session.  Furthermore, the German’s W04 was the fastest car in all three sectors with best times of 19.9s (Sector 1), 35.3s (Sector 2) and 20.6s (Sector 3). If Rosberg and Hamilton can repeat the same pace with the supersofts in the afternoon, the Mercedes cars will be odds on favorites for the pole on Saturday.

Well, that is if the Ferrari cars do not pull a surprise in qualifying. The Italians have not recorded a pole position in 2013 yet. But it is not unthinkable in Monaco – Alonso was only 0.087 seconds slower than Rosberg, while Massa was not too far behind with a gap of 0.199 from the German.  The Spaniard’s pace in Sector 1 and Sector 2 matched that of Rosberg and in Sector 3 the difference was less than 1 tenth of a second.

The only driver that was able to challenge Ferrari and Mercedes in the first free practice session was Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman’s Lotus was surprisingly as good as the leaders in the first two sectors. This allowed Grosjean to finish the session in P3, despite his teammate’s inability to break into top 10. Kimi Raikkonen ended up in P11, just behind championship rival Vettel.

It seems too early, however, to write Vettel, Webber and Raikkonen off as the three drivers have between them four wins in Monaco. Mercedes and Ferrari are the favorites after FP1, but many things can change when the laps with the supersofts start in the afternoon.

Free Practice 1 Times

Pos

Driver

Team

Time/Retired

Gap

Laps

1

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

1:16.195

 

31

2

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

1:16.282

0.087

27

3

Romain Grosjean

Lotus-Renault

1:16.380

0.185

21

4

Felipe Massa

Ferrari

1:16.394

0.199

23

5

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes

1:16.469

0.274

28

6

Pastor Maldonado

Williams-Renault

1:16.993

0.798

27

7

Mark Webber

Red Bull Racing-Renault

1:17.020

0.825

27

8

Jenson Button

McLaren-Mercedes

1:17.129

0.934

29

9

Sergio Perez

McLaren-Mercedes

1:17.378

1.183

25

10

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull Racing-Renault

1:17.380

1.185

23

11

Kimi Räikkönen

Lotus-Renault

1:17.509

1.314

26

12

Paul di Resta

Force India-Mercedes

1:17.548

1.353

27

13

Adrian Sutil

Force India-Mercedes

1:17.625

1.430

20

14

Nico Hulkenberg

Sauber-Ferrari

1:18.193

1.998

26

15

Jean-Eric Vergne

STR-Ferrari

1:18.454

2.259

25

16

Esteban Gutierrez

Sauber-Ferrari

1:18.754

2.559

28

17

Valtteri Bottas

Williams-Renault

1:18.830

2.635

28

18

Daniel Ricciardo

STR-Ferrari

1:19.067

2.872

25

19

Giedo van der Garde

Caterham-Renault

1:19.203

3.008

21

20

Charles Pic

Caterham-Renault

1:19.438

3.243

28

21

Jules Bianchi

Marussia-Cosworth

1:19.773

3.578

20

22

Max Chilton

Marussia-Cosworth

1:20.225

4.030

21

 

Sources: FOM, Planet F1

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