Saturday, 28 May 2016

Monaco: pre-qualifying 2016

There have been some mutterings of the driver markets for next year. An entertaining but unlikely suggestion was that Rosberg could get Raikkonen’s seat at Ferrari, with Alonso moving to Mercedes. Perhaps likelier is Vandoorne taking Button’s place at McLaren, Button going to Williams, and Massa retiring.

Palmer’s seat seems under threat already.

In more serious news, the family of Jules Bianchi are suing multiple organisations for the driver’s death, citing it as ‘avoidable’. The story is here:

This race is the first where we see the purple ultra-softs. It also sees an upgraded Renault engine (worth 0.5s on a normal circuit, bit less at the slow Monaco), but limited supply means only Ricciardo and Magnussen get it.

The final bit of news is that an idiotic new rule banning visor-strips from being thrown away (they’re torn off when they get dirty, so the driver can still see) has been axed, presumably because the bigwigs finally realised it was stupid. There is a risk of a strip getting trapped in an airbox or suchlike, but it’s a small risk, and asking drivers to keep half a dozen strips of plastic in the cockpit is mad.

In first practice, Hamilton led his team mate by a tenth. Vettel was further back, followed by Ricciardo, Verstappen, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Perez, Raikkonen and Sainz.

The first practice session was most notable for a drain cover coming loose. It gave Rosberg a puncture and then collided with Button’s car. Thankfully it merely damaged a front wing, but had it flipped left rather than right it could have severely injured or killed the Briton. This isn’t the first time F1 has come to Monaco and this sort of nonsense absolutely should not be happening.

In P2, Ricciardo was six-tenths up on Hamilton (I think that was due to tyre choice, though), with Rosberg three-tenths further back. Verstappen, Kvyat and Sainz were next, followed by Raikkonen, Perez, Vettel and Button.

At this stage I would’ve expected McLaren to be looking a bit racier. Power deficits mean less here, and the car was third fastest in the twisty final sector of Spain. Toro Rosso is looking quite good, and I think Perez has a good record on street circuits, so I’ll be keeping an eye on them.

Vettel was fastest in third practice, less than a tenth ahead of Hamilton (who did have a tiny spot of traffic on his fast lap). Rosberg was a tenth down the road, followed very closely by Ricciardo. Verstappen and Kvyat were next, followed by Sainz, Perez, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg.

In third practice Verstappen went into the wall and damaged the right hand side of his car. At the time of writing I’m unsure if he’ll be ready to go out in qualifying. May well be ok [update: actually got out again at the very end of qualifying]. The end of qualifying had little in the way of simulation due to traffic and so forth. Magnussen’s car stopped near the end, which didn’t help. So, P3 may not be that useful for assessing qualifying pace.

A bet leapt out at me on Betfair. Backed Rosberg for pole at 6, hedged at 2.5. Pole is likely his or Hamilton’s (outside shot of Ricciardo), he’s been within a tenth, and the odds are just too long, I think.

We’ll see how that turns out in qualifying.

Morris Dancer

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