Mercedes duo, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, showed they have the pace to lock-out the front row of the grid for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix when the they topped the timesheets in opening Free Practice.
All teams were using Pirelli’s soft and super-soft compound tyres
“Generally I’m pleased with today, it was a good day going in the right direction,” Rosberg, gunning for Mercedes’ fourth successive pole this year, said.
“I felt comfortable in the car, and we know we’re more or less in the hunt for a good result in qualifying — somewhere towards the front — but we have to wait and see.
“We really don’t know what other teams are doing, what they are running. I don’t know if our pace is going to be enough or not.
“The other thing is long-run pace: it’s better, but there are still some issues there, it still could be a problem. So there are a couple of question marks.”
Rosberg’s fastest lap of 1min 14.759secs round the tight street circuit, put him 0.318s ahead of Hamilton. The pair were followed by the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
World championship leader, Sebastian Vettel, could only manage ninth in his Red Bull, 1.255s behind Rosberg. His Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber, was fifth-fastest, 0.645s off the fastest time.
And the Aussie admitted his car’s one-lap pace was giving cause for concern.
“If we could have matched Rosberg’s pace, we would have done it today,” he said pointedly. “1m14.7s is not hanging around but let’s see how things go.
“We were not really in the window here last year up until my last lap in Q3, so we need to rediscover that, if I can, and be towards the front — you need to be there here.”
Vettel meanwhile, Vettel, who had KERS issues and was unable to get a lap-time boost when he switched from softs to super-softs, agreed that one-lap speed was Red Bull’s worry.
“Unfortunately we had a big change and we lost quite a lot of time in the afternoon,” the three-time world champ said.
“Not completely ideal but that is Friday — or in this case, Thursday.
“We would like to be a little bit more competitive in low-fuel configuration, so we need to try and find some lap time there.
“My run on super-soft was very poor, so we need to understand why. I wasn’t able to improve which you should be quite easily.
“After that I did a long run on super-soft and it seemed quite OK.”
Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, second in the title race, just four points behind Vettel, believes his Lotus has the pace to catch the Mercedes.
“Do I think we can match Mercedes’ pace? Yes, if we get all the things right,” Raikkonen, sixth fastest, 0.752s off the pace, said
“We will see. Why not? We see what happens on Saturday.
“You would think they will be very fast. Today they were very fast, but things can change. We have to wait and see. I have no interest to start guessing what can happen on Saturday.”
“We have to see how it is in the morning. If it’s like this morning, then it’s going to be a disaster. But we improved a lot and it’s getting better and better all the time.
Asked if he thought starting from the two first rows of the grid would be crucial if he wants to have a shot at winning the race, he answered, simply: “If we want to win, probably yes.”
Bathgate’s Paul di Resta, meanwhile, will fall out of his own bed into his Formula One car tomorrow (Sat) to begin final preparations for qualifying in the Monaco Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Scot, 10th-quickest in free practice, is keeping his fingers crossed he might just luck-in to the first podium of his F1 career.
“I can’t really think of a better place to score your first podium,” Di Resta, who again outpaced his Sahara Force India team-mate, Adrian Sutil, said.
“Qualifying here is crucial, more crucial than at any circuit on the calendar, so our first target is to get as far up the grid as possible.
“After that, it’s all going to boil down to strategy, and luck. We all know the role the Pirelli tyres are having on races this season, and I have no doubt they’ll play their part on Sunday too.
“Crucially for us, our car has been kind to its tyres all season, and if there’s a circuit you really want to capitalise on theta, it’s here.”
Di Resta, whose dad, Louis, is staying at the racer’s flat to take in all the action, has also been joined by more family and friends.
“It’s actually really good for making sure I stay chilled,” he laughed. “one minute I’m racing round the streets in the Force India, the next I’m drying dishes.”
Photos of Monaco Grand Prix: Copyright Red Bull F1, Ferrari F1, Lotus F1 & Sahara Force India F1