Monaco FP1 Recap: Alonso fastest in red flagged session

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Fernando Alonso (1:16.265) was fastest in the slightly shortened first session for the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix. Heikki Kovalainen’s engine decided to quit as the Finn entered the tunnel, laying down oil and smoke until the driver stopped at the tunnel exit, causing a red flag just as the hectic final ten minutes of the session began. That left no time for clean up and as the clock continued to tick down, the session was called a few minutes early. Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton, and Pastor Maldonado completed the fastest five in a generally uneventful practice. Traffic remained its usual self at Monaco, but there were no other major incidents and only a couple of minor kisses to the Armco. Kimi Raikkonen set no time and posted only an installation lap while Lotus spent the session working on steering setups for the world champion.

Session Start:
Monaco was its typically sunny, hot self as the first session of the weekend got underway. Unsurprisingly, no reserve drivers sat in cars Thursday morning, as drivers got back to grips with the streets of the principality. Kovalainen and Vergne led the way out onto the track. The field took their time, drivers feeling their way about, while Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus, and Kobayashi left the track to the teams further back in the standings. They got going about five minutes into the session as the drivers first out reported the track to lack grip. Kovalainen explained to Caterham, “Heikki’s back in ‘everything’s ok with the car. Track’s slippery, very green, as we expected.’ and he steps out of the car while it’s checked.” Perez (1:39.497) set the first time, while only Button remained in the garage.

All the drivers were tucked away in the garage ten minutes into the ninety minute session, leaving it to someone else to clean off Monaco’s streets. Button went out to for his first lap fifteen minutes into the session. After that lap, McLaren informed Hamilton via the radio that he would not be back onto the track for a half hour. Vergne re-broke the silence a little over twenty minutes in the session. He soon set a time (1:30.858), well faster than Perez’s timed third installation lap. Teammate Ricciardo soon slotted into second fastest, with Karthikeyan third.

1 Hour Remaining:
Vergne (1:22.207) improved his time, with Ricciardo, Karthikeyan, and that early lap from Perez the only times posted a third of the way through the session. The top three continued to be the only men circulating at that time. About six minutes later a few more drivers made their way out onto the tight track, bringing about a bit of traffic at times. Things got rather more hectic as more and more drivers got to work.

Karthikeyan caused a local yellow as he locked up, smartly taking the escape route at Mirabeau instead of attempting the turn. By the time halfway rolled around, there were more times and plenty of drivers on the track. At that point, Grosjean (1:17.188) led Schumacher, Kobayashi, Maldonado, Vergne, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Massa, Rosberg, and Senna as the top ten. Raikkonen, Vettel, Di Resta, Button, and Hamilton all had yet to set a time. Alonso’s first fast lap put him third fastest while the McLarens made their way out for timed laps. Raikkonen remained in the garage as Lotus fiddled with suspension and steering settings for the Finn.

Meanwhile Webber remained ninth fastest, despite overall fastest first and second sectors as traffic at Monaco struck again. Button’s first lap was good enough for eleventh fastest, but Hamilton was only nineteenth on his first time back out. Soon thereafter, Massa slide gently along the Armco at Tabac, forcing a return to the garage and a radio conversation that involved Rob Smedley saying, “you need to do a nice kiss at Monaco.” Moments later, teammate Alonso went fastest overall.

30 Minutes Remaining:
Alonso (1:17.126) with a half hour to go, over Grosjean, Perez, Schumacher, Rosberg, Massa, Kobayashi, Maldonado, Webber, Hamilton, and Button the top eleven. Vettel sat thirteenth fastest while Raikkonen remained in the garage. Grosjean soon supplanted Alonso, only to lose fastest to Hamilton by .004s. Meanwhile, Vettel had moved up to sixth, then another position to fifth fastest. Maldonado soon went third fastest as the track continued to rubber in. The duel at the top continued, as Grosjean and Hamilton traded fastest times. Schumacher managed to hit an unknown something, returning to the garage with a slightly askew front wing and possible damage to the wheel rim.

Grosjean, Hamilton, Maldonado, Alonso, and Massa were the fastest five as drivers returned to the garage as the final fifteen minutes of the session began. The top ten’s lap times were covered by less than a second. Moments later, Alonso went fastest by more than a tenth over Grosjean while the Frenchman’s teammate remained in the garage. Alonso continued to improve his time, dropping the fastest lap of the session to that point down to 1:16.265.

10 Minutes Remaining:
That time stood for Alonso with ten minutes to go. Grosjean, Perez, Hamilton, Maldonado, Massa, Kobayashi, Button, Vettel, Rosberg, and Schumacher the top eleven. Webber was thirteenth fastest.

Red Flag:
Kovalainen lost his engine through the tunnel, causing a red flag with just over nine minutes remaining. Since it happened in a practice session, the clock continued to run as the marshals attempted to clear the Caterham and allow the smoke to dissipate after the Finn stopped at the exit of the tunnel. As time ticked away, word came that the session would not restart with lots of oil through the tunnel. It ended a few minutes early with Alonso well faster than Grosjean.

Final Times for FP1, 2012 Monaco Grand Prix:

 DriverTeamTimeGapLaps
1. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:16.265 22
2. Romain GrosjeanLotus1:16.6300.36517
3. Sergio PerezSauber1:16.7110.44619
4. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1:16.7470.48212
5. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:16.7600.49520
6. Felipe MassaFerrari1:16.8430.57819
7. Kamui KobayashiSauber1:17.0380.77321
8. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:17.1900.92513
9. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:17.2220.95714
10. Nico RosbergMercedes1:17.2610.96618
11. Michael SchumacherMercedes1:17.4131.14814
12. Nico HulkenbergForce India1:17.6311.36618
13. Mark WebberRed Bull1:18.1061.84114
14. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:18.2091.94425
15. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:18.2521.98728
16. Paul Di RestaForce India1:18.3022.03716
17. Bruno SennaWilliams1:18.6172.35220
18. Heikki KovalainenCaterham1:19.0392.77420
19. Vitaly PetrovCaterham1:19.3413.07616
20. Narain KarthikeyanHRT1:20.8384.57326
21. Charles PicMarussia1:20.8954.63018
22. Timo GlockMarussia1:21.6385.3739
23. Pedro de la RosaHRT1:22.4236.15815
24. Kimi RaikkonenLotusn/tn/t1
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