At a street circuit like Monaco, all drivers stress that it’s all about confidence, so it was crucial to optimize the tight driving time on Friday. In the first free practice, which went very well for Ferrari and Red Bull, two teams occupied the first four places, as expected. More important than this time sheet was that motorists in the Principality had their hands full with the new weapons. The stiffer and heavier cars of 2022 caused a lot of inconveniences, of which the Mercedes jump was the best example.
Perez starts well, Ricciardo signals for the first red flag
So it’s no wonder that Toto Wolff’s men, like the other formations, caught up very quickly when the traffic light in the pit lane switched to green for the last practice session of the day. The two main title contenders were also present at the meet, with Charles Leclerc setting a first target time on the hard tire of 1.15.762. In the first practice, Red Bull started on hard and Ferrari on medium, but this afternoon the roles were exactly reversed.
It gave Christian Horner’s men a chance to react and that’s exactly what Sergio Perez did, speaking on the team order after the Barcelona race. The Mexican drove on yellow-backed 1.14.001 tires and was faster than ever before from the first practice session. Verstappen did not immediately have an answer at this point and had to concede two and a half tenths.
Because the third free practice takes place shortly before qualifying and crashes are particularly costly, the second practice is traditionally the session in which the drivers push themselves to the limit. A fall is imminent and after 15 minutes Daniel Ricciardo – four-time podium finisher in Monaco and winner in 2018 – was able to talk about it. The McLaren driver experienced slight understeer at Turn 13, lost the rear end and slid hard towards the pool into the guard rails and then the barriers. The Australian let it be known over the on-board radio, but the same could not be said of his car. The salvage work proved good for the first code red of this free practice session and an early end for Ricciardo.
Ferrari superior on soft times, not much slower than last year
After roughly a nine-minute break, the teams decided it was time to get the softs for the day. Those soft tires propelled Fernando Alonso to the top for a brief stint, although that proved to be short-lived. Perez brought Red Bull back to the top and saw Verstappen – despite the Mexican losing his left mirror – in second place by 0.031s. The wait was Ferrari’s response, and it came from Leclerc. Although he never finished in his hometown, he showed that the speed is more than good. The four-time GP winner managed to improve Perez’s time by a further two-tenths and set the new target time at 1:13:125.
It was less than three seconds slower than last year’s pole lap, while the 2022 cars would be slower, especially on slow corners where Monaco has plenty of them. In addition, the ceiling was not in sight on Friday afternoon. Verstappen briefly took over P1 with 1.13.103 but saw Ferrari had a lot more excess. In fact, Leclerc was excellent in his element and was able to nibble off another four tenths with 1.12.656. The home driver showed himself to be very strong and didn’t see anyone coming next to him in the rest.
Carlos Sainz managed to get 0.044 seconds behind him on an improved track, although Leclerc did not set the best time. However, the fact that Ferrari was able to claim the first two places with playful ease says everything about the power of the Scuderia. Red Bull were stuck at just under four tenths on Friday with the first car driven by Perez. Verstappen, who struggled in the first sector in particular, was 0.447 seconds behind his title rival. behind the usual suspects The untrained Lando Norris managed to complete the top five ahead of George Russell, Pierre Gasly and Alonso. Lewis Hamilton got no further than P12 in his bouncing Mercedes.