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What we learned from Friday practice at the 2024 F1 Monaco GP

Charles Leclerc and Ferrari finished on top of the 2024 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix on Friday – the local hero in charge in FP2, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had another low-key Friday.

The long-term averages from FP2 suggest that the world champion and his team have a clear advantage, but this will count for very little if they cannot achieve a better set-up before qualifying. So far, for that critical Monaco session, Leclerc is expected to dominate.

Added to the mix on Friday were Mercedes and Aston Martin who started this event strongly with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. McLaren, meanwhile, has yet to show its hand even on a lap after completing different race plans to most of the rest.

The story of the day

The first practice in Monaco, as always, was about building driver confidence, with times dropping around six seconds from the initial benchmarks to 1m12.169s at the end of the first hour-long session.

That was set by Mercedes driver Hamilton, and the Silver and Black Arrows team benefited from not having to compromise their set-up for the low and high speed corners here, as Monaco lacks the latter.

Leclerc then practically led the times during FP2: his pace with the mediums from the start was almost a second faster than the rest. But when the soft tires were put on for the qualifying simulation races, not only was he faster but Verstappen was unable to get ahead of Leclerc’s previous personal best on harder compounds.

Hamilton finished Friday as Leclerc's closest rival as Mercedes looked suited to Monaco's low-speed layout.

Hamilton finished Friday as Leclerc’s closest rival as Mercedes looked suited to Monaco’s low-speed layout.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsports Images

Both drivers then had difficult subsequent attempts on the softs, with Leclerc having two moments of oversteer at the hairpin and Portier abandoning his lap after the second when he had just set the fastest FP2 time in the first sector.

Meanwhile, Verstappen had hit the barrier a few minutes earlier at the previous corner, Turn 7 below Mirabeau, with his left rear and had to come into the pits to have things checked out.

He reappeared soon enough to join the long-term data collection that normally ends FP2, albeit for a much shorter period in Monaco, as in a dry Sunday event here, as forecast, race pace matters a lot less so given the challenge of overtaking in this very narrow place. event. At the end of the session, the two best drivers in the championship were divided by Hamilton and Alonso.

When comparing their fastest laps, Verstappen gives Leclerc a tenth only at the Loews hairpin

Hamilton’s best time came on used softs compared to Leclerc, as Mercedes (and McLaren) used the same set of softs they had used for qualifying simulations in FP1 due to a threat of rain predicted for the second. session that never came.

In contrast, Leclerc’s leading FP2 time came almost 10 minutes ahead of Hamilton’s, meaning he actually lost up to 0.4 seconds of track progress. This will be another important issue for Monaco to follow in qualifying.

What the data tells us

In terms of engine modes, GPS data from the four fastest cars shows Verstappen as the outlier: his straight line speed is noticeably lower in all acceleration zones around this short track.

At peak power at the exit of the tunnel and on the descent to the Nouvelle chicane, Verstappen’s top speed is 172.7 mph. This compares to 176.5mph for Leclerc, 177.7mph for Hamilton and 178.3mph for Alonso.

For the second Friday in a row, Red Bull is on the defensive, but achieving a turnaround could be more difficult in Monaco than in Imola.

For the second Friday in a row, Red Bull is on the defensive, but achieving a turnaround could be more difficult in Monaco than in Imola.

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsports Images

This is a typical Red Bull tactic for Friday practice. Improvements to the engine modes are expected for qualifying, which will also be the case elsewhere, but probably to a lesser extent elsewhere, for Verstappen’s team.

The GPS traces also show Ferrari gaining ground on Red Bull in the low-speed corners that the RB20 and its predecessors have loathed. When comparing his fastest laps, Verstappen gives Leclerc a tenth only at the Loews hairpin.

Again, a higher engine mode will offset this a bit tomorrow. But Motorsport.com noted here in FP1 that every time they passed, Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez simply had to slow down a century to accelerate while waiting for their noses to turn into the tight left-hander.

This is supported by the GPS data, while we also observed how easily Leclerc was able to rotate his SF-24 throughout the sequence during FP1. The Red Bulls were less silky and oscillated more over the bump on the approach to the apex of the hairpin.

In FP2, both Red Bull drivers complained about the quality of their driving. This centers on his low ride heights, with Perez’s RB20 being a particular problem when turning towards Massenet at the top of the hill in the first sector where he hit the inside barriers in the early stages. Verstappen, meanwhile, was struggling more with a set-up that prevented him from “driving better on the curbs”, according to Red Bull Motorsport advisor Helmut Marko.

Red Bull's long-run pace was superior to that of its rivals, but it will not be able to exploit it if its drivers qualify in the lower order.

Red Bull’s long-run pace was superior to that of its rivals, but it will not be able to exploit it if its drivers qualify in the lower order.

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Focusing on Red Bull and Ferrari, who as it has developed today should be considered favorites for pole (with the exception that a promotion is expected from McLaren and drivers from other teams can surprise on this unique track), and things look much better. better for Verstappen and company.

This is because Pérez’s long run average over 10 laps with the mediums was 1m15.920s, compared to Ferrari’s best average through Carlos Sainz of 1m15.377s over 11 laps. Sainz looked less comfortable overall compared to Leclerc on Friday.

Verstappen ran strongly in the final long runs, while Leclerc’s average was more consistent than Sainz’s but much slower at 1m16.599s, with the Spaniard’s average calculation boosted by removing five outliers. These had to come out due to the significant traffic factor here, which, as always, means the long-term data is an outlier in itself compared to the other races.

In fact, one paddock expert noted on Friday night that FP2 pace may actually be faster than race pace in Monaco in many cases, as drivers will often ride at a slower speed to protect advantageous positions.

Front tire graining was a problem for many cars in FP2. Keeping that in check will be a major factor in Sunday’s success, but Saturday’s superiority will inevitably trump all.

Can Leclerc turn a good Friday into an equally impressive weekend this time around?

Can Leclerc turn a good Friday into an equally impressive weekend this time around?

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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