Vettel tops Monaco practice

Vettel tops Monaco practice

Sebastian Vettel unsurprisingly emerged top of a contrasting first practice session for Red Bull ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

As is tradition around the streets of the principality, the opening two practice runs are always on a Thursday, with Friday a free day.

Under blue skies, warm sunshine and temperatures of 25 degrees, the reigning world champion posted a series of quick laps towards the end of the 90 minutes.

Vettel traded blows with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes before finally emerging top dog in the last moments with a lap of one minute 16.619secs.

In stark contrast, team-mate Mark Webber propped up the standings without a time to his name, the Australian managing just three installation laps before suffering a gear selection issue.

Such a woe merely added to Webber’s unhappy week after he became the first driver in 11 years on Sunday not to win the Spanish Grand Prix from pole.

Webber had to settle for fourth behind Vettel who currently holds a commanding 41-point lead over Lewis Hamilton after winning four of the first five grands prix this season.

Chasing his first success in Monaco, this was obviously the start required to the weekend for the 23-year-old Vettel who finished 0.113secs clear of Alonso.

With traffic problems prevalent in those final stages, Rosberg had to settle for third, just over half-a-second adrift, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa edging past Hamilton to snatch fourth.

Unfortunately for Hamilton he could not get a clean lap, notably in the middle sector where he was consistently held up, the McLaren star eventually fifth, 0.731secs down.

Team-mate Jenson Button appeared to struggle with his set up during the session, and towards the end even suffered a rare KERS issue that left him just under a second off Vettel’s pace.

There was then an astonishing gap of a second to the next quickest on track in Williams’ Pastor Maldonado who has enjoyed a number of fine moments in his junior career around this circuit.

Force India’s Adrian Sutil finished eighth quickest, with team-mate Paul di Resta down in 19th, three seconds behind the German.

This was, however, Di Resta’s first taste of Monte-Carlo for six years, and he can be expected to close that gap as he learns the track.

Vitaly Petrov was ninth fastest in his Renault, followed by the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher who appeared to suffer a steering issue eight minutes from the end.

Hurtling along the start-finish straight, something appeared to break on Schumacher’s car which prevented him from turning right into Ste Devote and then up the hill that follows.

The 42-year-old, a five-times winner here, was at least able to steer left down the escape road at Ste Devote, albeit sliding into a barrier from where his car had to be hoisted away.

The only other unusual moment saw the session red flagged for a few minutes as there was water on the track down the straight.

The suggestion was that it was an underground leak, with the water seeping up through onto the track surface, a situation that may require further technical attention.

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