Kovalainen and Hamilton give their everything to refine McLaren package
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula One Team had a good first day on the challenging street circuit in the heart of Monte-Carlo. Both Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen gave everything to refine the technical package ahead of the crucial qualifying session at Monaco on Saturday.
P1 programme - 26 laps / 1m17.578s (3rd)
A straightforward day for Lewis, who began the day by running three stints on primes in P1: six laps/1m17.578s best; five laps/1m18.238s and seven laps/1m17.863s. The session was split between track familiarisation, evaluating new components and tweaking set-up.
Lewis said: “Driving around Monaco is a spectacular sensation – you can’t compare it to any other circuit. You get such a huge buzz here; I love this place – it reminds me how much I love this sport, why I love racing and why I love Formula 1.”
P2 programme - 35 laps / 1m15.445s (2nd)
Into P2, the team evaluated the prime and option tyre, completing longer runs and further tweaking the set-up for the circuit. As the track rubbered in, the times got progressively faster, resulting in runs of: four laps/1m18.124s and eight laps/1m16.523s, during which he was delayed behind Buemi and chose to miss the apex of Turn 16. His next run of six laps/1m16.204s was also hampered by a flat-spotted tyre, caused after locking up at the entrance to the harbour chicane. He finished the session with an option-tyre run of five laps, setting his 1m15.445s best.
“From today’s performance, I think Q3 is definitely possible on Saturday,” Lewis added. “I’m optimistic about shooting for the top five – I hope we can get there.”
P1 programme - 30 laps / 1m17.686s (4th)
A long seven-lap first run (1m19.642s) on primes quickly helped Heikki to establish a benchmark for the weekend and he worked well throughout the day to refine his set-up and approach to the track. A quick run up the escape road at Ste Devote failed to halt his progress as he completed further runs of seven laps/1m18.609s and eight laps/1m17.686s.
P2 programme - 45 laps / 1m15.984s (7th)
For the afternoon, Heikki also ran a tyre comparison programme, running five laps (1m18.361s) on options, a short two-lapper (1m16.871s) on primes and three final runs - 11 laps (1m17.369s) on primes, a brief three laps (1m15.984s) on options and a final option-tyre run of 14 laps (1m17.491s).
“Lots of traffic today – but that’s normal for Monaco,” Heikki said. “Today’s running tells us we’ll be more competitive here. The team has worked very well and my car was in good shape straight away this morning. The most important thing is that we’ve made consistent improvements – we’ve made good progress on the set-up and I’ve been dialling myself further into the car and the track on each run. While our car seems to behave well around here, there’s still some work to do – we won’t be able to do miracles over the weekend.”
Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “The whole team loves the thrill and tension of the Monaco weekend and today’s performance has left us feeling encouraged that we will have another successful weekend in the principality. Both Lewis and Heikki have really dived into the challenge, both producing some excellent times and, most importantly, helping to refine our technical package ahead of Saturday’s crucial qualifying session and the race itself. We go into Saturday feeling extremely positive about getting a strong result from both drivers.”
Norbert Haug, Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “A good first day on this challenging track which saw Vodafone McLaren Mercedes winning on the last two occasions. It is too early to know where we will be in qualifying compared to our competitors, but Lewis and Heikki should hopefully be in better shape than at previous races. The car so far just looks better on this track and our mechanical and aerodynamic improvements seem to help here around as well as our KERS hybrid. Having said that, I do not see us in the role of the favourites like in previous years when we won six grands prix out of 11 since McLaren-Mercedes’ maiden win in 1998.”