The drivers ran on the super-soft tyres for the first time this weekend in the second practice session – and discovered they may struggle with them in Sunday’s race.
Take a look at the second practice times in detail with the interactive chart below.
Struggling on super-softs
Jenson Button’s radio comment during the second practice session asking about how the other teams were coping with wear on the super-soft tyre was a bit of a giveaway.
It hinted at the doubts over the MP4-25’s performance on the slow-speed, low-grip track and both Button and Hamilton’s lap times indicate the team were struggling to find the same kind of performance and durability on the super-soft tyres that their rivals were.
Red Bull had problems with the super-soft tyres last year and, as Mark Webber acknowledged after the session, their slow corner performance was lacking at tracks like Singapore and Yas Island. So far they look more comfortable this year – on a par with the Ferraris but, as expected, not enjoying the performance margin they had in Barcelona.
Almost every driver who’s reached Q3 the season has elected to qualify – and therefore start the race – on the softest tyre available. On the face of it, that should remain the case in Monaco, as the alternative to the super-soft tyre is not the soft tyre Bridgestone brought last year, but the medium.
But perhaps, with overtaking so difficult at Monaco and the super-soft tyre potentially too fragile to cope with a maximum fuel load at the start of the race, for the first time there could be a real benefit in gambling on the medium tyre. Still I suspect most teams will stick with super-softs because they won’t want to give away track position in qualifying.
Kubica looks quick
The light rainfall in the second half of the session was not enough to force driver to change to intermediate tyres – but its effect on the lap times is clear to see.
But Robert Kubica continued to put in quick times, lapping in the low 1’15s at this point. According to his team, Kubica set the quickest time achieved on the medium compound tyre – I can’t verify that but assuming it’s true it’s a further indication that Kubica has excellent pace this weekend.
One driver who doesn’t seem to be going so well – and not for the first time this year – is Vitantonio Liuzzi. He was almost a second slower than Adrian Sutil in the first session and over a second off in the second. He said the VJM03 isn’t working for him on low fuel runs, which we’ve seen evidence of in several races this year – he’s yet to beat Sutil in qualifying.
After a difficult weekend in Spain Nico Rosberg seems to be happier this weekend. Mercedes have reverted to the shorter wheelbase W01 used before Barcelone which they think will be better suited to the Monaco track.
Despite losing time in the morning with a broken pushrod he beat Michael Schumacher by just over a tenth of a second in the afternoon session.
At Williams, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg were doing side-by-side tests new front and rear wings and so it’s likely they ran with similar fuel loads at similar times. In which case, rookie Hulkenberg had a good showing by lapping two-tenths of a second faster than his team mate, nothwithstanding the deteriorating track conditions later in the session when Barrichello set his best time.
The new teams
The quickest runner from the new teams was Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus, 1.2 seconds off the slowest midfield runner, Jaime Alguersuari.
As in the first session the true performance of the new teams compared to the establish runners seems to be slightly exaggerated by the time at which they set their laps. But in relative terms they seem to be about as far behind as they were in Barcelona, possibly a little closer.
Within a few minutes of today practice finishing a rain showed doused the circuit, washing away today’s rubber build-up.. By the time they get back on track on Saturday the circuit will have a day’s worth of rubbish dropped on it. The teams are chasing a moving target at Monaco and the one which calls the conditions best stands to win big on Sunday.
2010 Monaco Grand Prix