Motorsports Mondial

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Grosjean leads the way in Monaco

Romain Grosjean got his weekend under way in fine style by claiming the fastest lap in this morning’s free practice session in Monaco, leading for almost the entire session from Dani Clos and local hero Stefano Coletti.

The Frenchman improved his times throughout free practice before setting a best lap of 1:22.368, more than a second faster than his closest rivals in a session which saw a number of yellow flags, and one red flag, in the busy 30 minute period.

Luca Filippi led his rivals out on track when the lights went green, taking advantage of the clear track to set the early pace, but Grosjean claimed the top spot on the timing sheets next time round and stayed there until the end.

The red flag was shown for an accident between Charles Pic and Luiz Razia, with the Addax driver slow through the swimming pool and the AirAsia man less so, losing a piece of his front wing in the process and giving the marshals a souvenir to collect.

With time running down, the field was desperate to improve, but a few of them pushed too hard: Fabio Leimer spun at the Mirabeau and Filippi spun at Casino Square, with both men doing a remarkable job to stay off the walls, while Davide Valsecchi clipped the wall at Anthony Noghes and lost his rear wing in the process, just as the chequered flag was shown.

Behind the top three were Filippi, Valsecchi, Jules Bianchi, Johnny Cecotto and Esteban Gutierrez: with a few hours to go the relative peace of the free practice is likely to be shattered in what promises to be an intense qualifying session this afternoon

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Ricciardo warms up for some F1 action

Just before taking to the Monaco track aboard Toro Rosso’s STR6 for the first free practice session in Formula 1, Daniel Ricciardo (ISR) grabbed the fastest time in Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Australian driver was the winner here last season, and today he set the best time ahead of Robert Wickens (Carlin) and Brendon Hartley (Gravity-Charouz), to round off a hard morning’s work session in the Monaco sun.

Like every year, the drivers in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series were the first to take the track on this Monaco street circuit. At the green light, all the drivers got flying through the streets of the principality to find their marks on what is a completely atypical circuit. This morning was important for Adrien Tambay (Pons Racing) who was discovering both circuit and Formula Renault 3.5 Series for the first time.

Alexander Rossi (Fortec Motorsports), who made an impressive debut here in Formula Renault 3.5 Series last season, was the first pace setter. The American made his mark in the first part of the session and gradually improved the fastest provisional time. Albert Costa (Epic Racing), Sten Pentus (Epic Racing) and Jake Rosenzweig (Mofaz Racing) were quickly on the pace too.

At mid-session, it was Robert Wickens who took matters in hand. The Canadian was the first to go below the 1’30 mark. Lapping in 1’29”826 then 1’29”812, Wickens settled comfortably into first place while Daniel Ricciardo took his turn to put in a strong flying lap that put him in second place.

During the last quarter of an hour, the name a the top of the timing screens changed almost every minute. Alexander Rossi, Jake Rosenzweig, Brendon Hartley and Sten Pentus all traded best times. Sten Pentus was on top before losing control of his car at the Swimming Pool turn. The Estonian crashed into the barrier, forcing the stewards to bring out the yellow flag. It was the only incident during this practice session.

Once the track was cleared, Daniel Ricciardo showed his speed again. Before heading over to take part in the Formula 1 free practice session, the Australian completed this session with two flying laps. With times of 1’28”295 then 1’27”957, he finished first, ahead of Robert Wickens, Brendon Hartley, Jake Rosenzweig and Alexander Rossi. The drivers will now have time to prepare for qualifying on Saturday morning. The start of the race is on Sunday at 11:10.

Daniel Ricciardo: “It’s ideal to start with the best time before moving over to the Toro Rosso. It makes for a good warmup, but I think we’ll have to forget everything now and pick up afresh in F1, then forget everything about the F1 again for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series qualifying on Saturday morning! We’ve done a good job. The key was to settle on a good set-up because there’s so much to get through in one session. Now let’s get some of that F1!”

Brendon Hartley: “I stayed on top for much of the session. I got in a bit of traffic before the end, but the best time was within reach. Last year I drove the race well, but I suffered in qualifying. My goal this time is to qualify well. I’ll need to get a series of good flying laps, like this morning.”

Alexander Rossi: “In Monaco the traffic is the main problem. I’ve never had a clear lap on new tires, but I know we’re on the pace. It helps to have driven here last year, that’s for sure. The track is so specific and you need to be very sure to address lots of small details. The key this morning was to complete as many laps as possible without touching a single barrier!”

Adrien Tambay: “My first few laps went very smoothly. We set up my seat in thirty minutes yesterday and I was perfectly installed. I had one or two close calls, but I didn’t make contact and that’s the main thing. I’m ready to step up the pace in qualifying. I was not daunted by the circuit. It’s a great track, with walls!”