Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2019

Verstappen looks like the only threat to Mercedes in Monaco

2019 Monaco Grand Prix Thursday practice analysis

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Mercedes arrived in Monaco, unpacked their W10 and got on with business as if it’s always been this straightforward for them around the streets of the Principality.

In fact, first practice yesterday was the first time the silver cars had led any session around Monte-Carlo’s streets for two years. And to begin with it looked as though they might not have things entirely their own way: Max Verstappen split Lewis Hamilton from Valtteri Bottas at the top of the times sheets.

Second practice was more discouraging for those hoping more than one team might be in the hunt for victory this weekend. Verstappen was delayed in his garage while Red Bull repaired a radiator which had been damaged by debris. Once back on the track, Verstappen reported his car was lacking grip. It later turned out this was the result of an experimental set-up change.

So after the usual Friday day off, can Verstappen get back on terms with the Mercedes drivers when the serious action resumes on Saturday? Normally Red Bull are a little less competitive in terms of one-lap pace, but much of that is likely to be down to Mercedes’ high-performance engine modes, and those will count for less around Monaco.

Last year the final practice session was Verstappen’s undoing as he creamed his RB14 into the wall coming out of the Swimming Pool and missed qualifying entirely. Since then he’s seldom put a foot wrong, but he will have to wring every last hundredths from the Red Bull if he’s going to get in among the Mercedes.

Do Red Bull have more in hand? It’s possible: Mercedes have already lapped Monaco quicker than they did last year, while RB15s are still more than a second off what they managed in 2018.

A curious aspect of Thursday’s lap times was that Red Bull and Ferrari were not as far ahead of the midfield as usual: Another indication Mercedes’ closest rivals have a bit more lap time in.

Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Monaco, 2019
Verstappen, Ricciardo and Russell all complained about Stroll
However only one of the Red Bull drivers is likely to trouble Hamilton and Bottas. Pierre Gasly pronounced himself happier with his car’s balance after second practice, but as yet he’s not shown he can deliver close to the kind of blistering pace we’ve come to expect from his team mate.

One-lap pace is vital in Monaco and it will be this the team’s simulator drivers are prioritising today as they have an extra 24 hours to wring performance from their cars. Last year Ferrari often returned to the track on Saturday in better shape after Antonio Giovinazzi or Daniil Kvyat’s labours in the virtual car.

Understanding the tyre performance remains a key aspect of their deficit to Mercedes, which was over three-quarters of a second yesterday. It’s hard to imagine them overturning that kind of gap even with an extra day to play with.

Williams’ pre-weekend warning that the progress they believe they have made with the FW42 would be hard to discern in Monaco appears to be bang on the money. The cars look worse here than anywhere else, over two seconds slower than almost everyone else.

Lance Stroll also had a tough time of it on Thursday, well off his team mate’s pace in a Racing Point chassis which has not improved as they team hoped it would after its Spanish Grand Prix upgrade. Stroll also vexed no fewer than three of his rivals by getting in their way. Based on his form so far, that should cease to be a problem for them after Q1.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’12.1061’11.11886
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’12.1781’11.19989
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’12.8231’11.88176
4Pierre GaslyRed Bull-Honda1’13.1701’11.93878
5Alexander AlbonToro Rosso-Honda1’13.8271’12.03194
6Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’12.1651’12.05250
7Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’13.2321’12.17476
8Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’13.4371’12.23988
9Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’13.3631’12.34288
10Charles LeclercFerrari1’12.4671’12.35065
11Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’13.3791’12.39272
12Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’14.2781’12.39364
13Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault2’00.6701’12.41949
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’13.7311’12.57777
15Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’14.5661’12.75282
16Nico HulkenbergRenault1’13.2271’12.87292
17Daniel RicciardoRenault1’13.4131’12.88893
18Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’16.1351’14.55875
19George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’15.1151’15.05275
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’15.5141’15.14668

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2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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4 comments on “Verstappen looks like the only threat to Mercedes in Monaco”

  1. One-lap pace is vital in Monaco and it will be this the team’s simulator drivers are prioritising today as they have an extra 24 hours to wring performance from their cars. Last year Ferrari often returned to the track on Saturday in better shape after Antonio Giovinazzi or Daniil Kvyat’s labours in the virtual car.

    Can anyone provide more details on the simulator work done in the weekends? Sounds interesting

  2. Looking at those times as a lifelong Williams fan just made me say out loud (at my desk at work to boot) “what the **** are Williams playing at?” 2.53 seconds slower than last year…two point five three seconds for a team that has won more constructors championships than anyone other than Ferrari, it is just unacceptable. Frank Williams must be losing his mind at this. It is not as if the FW41 was a great car either. The cherry on the cake is that Russell’s FP2 time is also a second down on Massa’s time in FP2 in 2017 (a 1:14.003).

    The scale of the task ahead for those at Grove is simply monumental.

  3. Sonny Crockett
    24th May 2019, 13:00

    As always, I eagerly await Saturday’s qualifying. The race on Sunday less so…

  4. Help us Max Verstappen, you’re our only hope!

    If he can’t threaten the Mercs and they clear the first corner 1-2…well, maybe the midfield battle will be good.

Comments are closed.