Early Thursday, all was going for MercedesAMG at the Monaco Grand Prix, A few hours later people wondered what happened.
Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the 1st practice ahead of Ferrari’s (NYSE:RACE) Sebastian Vettel, but then finished more than 1sec behind as Mr. Vettel set the fastest time in the 2nd practice.
Mr. Hamilton finished that in 8th place, with his teammate Valtteri Bottas down in 10th.
An F1 rarity sent ripples through the F1 paddock: meticulous Mercedes got its set-up all wrong when switching to the quicker ultra-soft tires during the afternoon session.
“The difference between the two sessions was night and day. I’m not sure why the tires weren’t working,” a concerned Lewis Hamilton said. “Ferrari are very quick again …. We’re looking forward to a real fight.”
Now 5 races into this season, Mr. Hamilton trails behind championship leader Mr. Vettel by 6 points with each driver winning 2 races.
Friday is a rest day, so the MercedesAMG engineers and technical staff will have time to figure out what went wrong. “We will have a good think about it,” technical director James Allison said.
Victory for Ferrari will be sweet in Monaco, The Scuderia has not won here since Y 2001.
Mr. Vettel waxed optimistic that Ferrari can carry the pace into Saturday’s 3rd practice and qualifying. “It’s important to have a good feel for the car,” he said. “Kimi and I were quite happy with the long run.”
Mr. Raikkonen sounded upbeat after recording the 3rd quickest time in P2 behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who got the Pole position here last year. “We had two smooth sessions,” Mr. Raikkonen said. “We did some changes and it always got better.”
By contrast, the mood inside the MercedesAMG camp was one of concern. Mr. Hamilton was 1.15 secs adrift of Mr. Vettel and Mr. Bottas was 1.18 secs off.
That is a significant deficit here at Monaco or anywhere on the F1 circuit.
“We clearly went in the wrong direction,” Mr. Bottas said. “When the car isn’t quite right, you lose a lot of time in Monaco. At least we’ve learned what not to do with the set-up.”
The MercedesAMC slump was especially surprising considering Mr. Hamilton’s smooth 1st practice.
“I don’t know what happened to them today, it was a bit weird,” Mr. Vettel said. “I’m pretty sure there is a reason and they will be back to full force Saturday.”
Mr. Hamilton has 64 Pole positions to his name, one less than F1 great Ayrton Senna, but only one of those in Monaco, where he won last year and in Y 2008.
Meanwhile, Lance Stroll’s, 18 anni, miserable run continued. He crashed into the barriers near Casino Square, bringing the session to a brief halt while his car was lifted off the track.
“I just lost the rear of the car pushing for the limit,” Mr. Stroll said. “It happens. At least now I know.” He has failed to finish his past 3 races and has yet to score a point.
In the 1st session, Mr. Hamilton was followed by Mr. Vettel, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mr. Bottas, who is the other driver to win a race this season.
Making his return to F1 as a 1-off replacement for McLaren’s Fernarndo Alonso, who is racing in the Indianapolis 500 at the weekend, veteran Jenson Button was 12th best in the afternoon and 14th in the morning.
2017 Monaco Grand Prix – Facts and Figures
Track: Circuit d’ Monaco
Lap Record: Lewis Hamilton 1:17.939 (2016)
Tire Compounds: Ultra-Soft/Super-Soft/Soft
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:13.622
2016 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:17.939
DRS Zone: T19 to T1
2017 Monaco Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times
|NYSE:RACE||85.64||25 May 2017||0.55||85.12||85.76||85.12||331,780|
|HeffX-LTN Analysis for RACE:||Overall||Short||Intermediate||Long|
|Very Bullish (0.65)||Very Bullish (0.60)||Very Bullish (0.62)||Very Bullish (0.71)|
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