Free Practice 1 was nip and tuck between the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. Come FP2 though, and it was all Mercedes, as the Silver Arrows finished over seven-tenths clear of their nearest rivals following the session’s qualifying simulations.
FP2 witnessed a fascinating back and forth between Hamilton and Bottas, with the two drivers becoming the first to make it in the 1m 11s bracket early in the session before whittling their times down. By the end of the hour and a half’s running, Hamilton had posted a 1m 11.118s, with Bottas just 0.081s further back.
Ominously, their rivals couldn’t get within 0.7s, with Sebastian Vettel placing third for Ferrari, 0.763s away – and having only narrowly kept his front wing after a huge lock-up going into Turn 1 – while Pierre Gasly was P4 for Red Bull, 0.820s adrift. We weren’t given a proper opportunity to find out how close team mate Verstappen could have got to the Mercedes in FP2, with the Dutchman only managing 10 laps before he was pulled into the Red Bull garage, with the mechanics working hard on a water leak on his RB15 before he made it back out with a few minutes to go.
He ended up P6 and behind one of the stars of the session, Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon. The Thai driver was on pole position here in Formula 2 12 months ago, and did brilliantly to end up P5 in FP2 on his first outing here in F1 machinery, within a second of Hamilton’s headline time, and nine places up on team mate Daniil Kvyat, who was P14.
Behind Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen was once more up there for Haas, finishing P7 (he’d been P8 in FP1), while Antonio Giovinazzi impressed to finish in eighth, ahead of team mate and two-time polesitter here Kimi Raikkonen and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, who wasn’t able to get a clean lap together and ended up 10th.
With Nico Hulkenberg having shown ‘best of the rest’ pace in FP1 by going seventh, FP2 was harder work for Renault, as Hulkenberg and team mate Daniel Ricciardo finished P16 and P17, and separated by just 0.016s, indicating that their pace, sadly for them, was broadly representative.
At the bottom end of the times, Williams were P19 and 20, with George Russell narrowly shading Robert Kubica but nearly four seconds off the ultimate pace, while Lance Stroll finished just ahead in P18 and 3.440s off Hamilton’s time, the Canadian appearing to be struggling in his Racing Point RP19 so far this weekend.
So, Mercedes’ blistering performance through the slow corners at Barcelona led people to speculate that they’d be mighty in Monaco. And on the strength of Free Practice 2 in the Principality, it looks like their rivals are going to have to use their extra day of preparation wisely before Free Practice 3 and Qualifying if they’re going to get anywhere near the Silver Arrows’ ballpark this weekend.
2019 Monaco Grand Prix – FP2 Results