Fernando Alonso has finished fastest in the second practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, posting the fastest time of the session in the final few minutes when the track had dried out following a rain shower.
His lap of 1:18.482 was good enough to see him finish four-tenths of a second ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who had topped the first session in Monaco earlier today.
Heavy rainfall between the end of FP1 and the start of the second session meant that the track was wet when FP2 began. Valtteri Bottas was the only driver to head out early on, but even on the intermediate tire, it was too wet to gain any meaningful data.
It was not until the halfway point in the session that the first times were set, with Jenson Button going fastest of all ahead of Sebastian Vettel and teammate Kevin Magnussen. Only another six drivers opted to set a time whilst the track was still dry, with others chosing to bide their time.
Kimi Raikkonen was not able to head out again after encountering a gearbox problem on the main straight. He did manage to get his Ferrari back to the pits, but the team will now be left with a repair job overnight and on Friday to get him ready for qualifying.
With just five minutes remaining, a number of drivers ventured out on the soft and super-soft tire as the track had dried out enough. This resulted in a number of rapid improvements, with P1 changing hands every few seconds. Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg all topped the timesheets momentarily, but it was Fernando Alonso who ultimately finished fastest ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
The advantage certainly appears to lie with Mercedes in Monaco, but should rain strike during qualifying or the race this weekend, Ferrari and Red Bull may well be able to put up more of a fight to the Silver Arrows.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.