Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2019

Ferrari are fastest for the first time since Japan 2019

Lap time watch: 2021 Monaco Grand Prix

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For the first time since Sebastian Vettel took pole position at Suzuka in 2019, Ferrari have set the quickest lap time during a race weekend.

Both their drivers might have gone even faster than Charles Leclerc’s 1’10.346. Others such as Max Verstappen might have gone quicker too. But Leclerc’s crash meant we didn’t get to see whether they would.

Nonetheless, the result means Ferrari are back on top in terms of outright pace, and perhaps earlier than many expected them to be. It’s not as if this looked on the cards in the last two races, where the SF21s were eight tenths of a second off the pace.

Ferrari were the team to beat in qualifying for much of the second half of 2019. But shortly after Vettel’s pole position in Japan came a now-notorious technical directive on power units, following which their engines no longer seemed as potent.

Then came 2020, and the revelation that the FIA had reached a private settlement with Ferrari following an investigation of their power unit. Following changes to their power unit, the team’s performance slumped alarmingly at the beginning of the year.

Alfa Romeo are quicker than Alpine for the first time this year
Considering the team finished in the bottom half of the championship last year, the progress it has made since then is remarkable. It shows what a team of Ferrari’s enormous resources can achieve compared the less well-funded teams it was on a par with when last season began.

Of course a significant question mark hangs over how representative this result will be of the rest of the season. Monaco is a highly unusual track, and it’s striking that Lando Norris predicted this kind of performance on the strength of their speed in the final sector at Circuit de Catalunya.

A few other surprising result underline Monaco’s reputation as an ‘outlier’. Having been quickest for the last three races, Mercedes were third in Monaco, and only two-hundredths quicker than McLaren. Antonio Giovinazzi did a fine job to take Alfa Romeo into Q3, as they out-paced Alpine for the first time this year.

Ferrari will therefore want to see this kind of performance on more typical circuits before they can truly declare themselves to be back among the front runners.

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Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monaco, 2021
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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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3 comments on “Ferrari are fastest for the first time since Japan 2019”

  1. The circuit is a one-off on the calendar, but this still marks commendable progress on the part of the Scuderia. Another step in the next couple of races would be welcome indeed.

  2. Ahmad Tarmizi
    23rd May 2021, 10:36

    the progress it has made since then is remarkable. It shows what a team of Ferrariā€™s enormous resources can achieve compared the less well-funded teams it was on a par with when last season began.

    Wow.. Why cant Aston Martin do the same?.

  3. We know the current Ferrari sacrifices outright straight line speed for manouverability and carrying speed into and through the corners, it is more agile, not packed with raw straightline power and aerodynamics. Monaco is a very good fit for that car this year. How it pans out in the race with a dicky gearbox in one car and a relatively newbie in the other one remains to be seen, but the home crowd seemed delighted yesterday with the pole position so it’s nice to see fans getting enthusiastic again after the past year and a bit. Fingers crossed Hamilton will make a fight of it and move up a few places, which, with that car, on this track, looks like a new Tom Cruise Mission movie at the moment – let’s see what 2pm and lights out bring us. Enjoy.

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