Robert Kubica gave Renault some encouragement with the third-fastest time in practice at Monaco this morning, less than one tenth of a second slower than Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.
Practice times are especially difficult to interpret at Monaco due to traffic and the ever-improving track surface. Take a closer look at who did what during the first session with the interactive chart below.
Kubica set his best time just over a quarter of an hour after Alonso did his, and so will have benefitted from a slightly grippier track surface. Most encouragingly for Renault, he did it around the same time Vettel posted his best lap, just 16 thousandths of a second better than Kubica’s.
The McLarens, as usual, did more running early in the session. That will partly explain why they are further down the time sheets – but it may also be a reflection of the MP4-25s weakness on circuits with lots of slow corners. Hamilton and Button were close to Massa on pace when all three were out on the track together.
Of course the big unknown here is fuel loads. But a lot of the changes we can see here – a resurgent Ferrari, McLaren now quite there, and Kubica unlocking the best from the R30 – are consistent with what we expected before the race.
For the Monaco rookies, these sessions are about getting in as many laps as possible. Jaime Alguersuari was the first driver out to set times and did 37 in the 90 minute session, while Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov each completed 39.
The headline times shows Timo Glock in the updated Virgin just one second off Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber. And Heikki Kovalainen was within a tenth of Glock.
There are a few reasons why the new teams should be closer to the front runners on pure lap time this weekend. It’s a short, and one where engine performance is not as critical as at other circuits. We saw significant developments on the Lotus and Virgin cars last week.
But again, track evolution will have played a role – Kobayashi set his best lap time over half an hour before Glock did his. We’ll get a better idea of where they stand when we see their long runs in FP2 this afternoon.
So far it looks like the HRTs and Lucas di Grassi in the old specification VR-01 would struggle to win a GP2 race here. As I write Pastor Maldonado’s best time in GP2 practice is a tenth quicker than di Grassi’s, and a whole second up on the HRT pair.
2010 Monaco Grand Prix