F1 Monaco GP: Friday round-up

By Team autoX | on May 22, 2015



Max Verstappen\'s second place in first free practice for the Monaco Grand Prix was the highlight on Thursday, which is when the first two practice sessions for F1\'s glamour event are traditionally held. (PIC: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

This summary of the first two free practice sessions and chatter around this weekend's sixth round of the the FIA Formula 1 World Championship comes to you on a Friday but as F1 fans among you would know, that the Monaco Grand Prix holds its opening practice sessions on Thursday so that drivers and teams can live it up in one of the glamour hotspots of southern Europe on Friday. Well, at least that was the original intention. Long after the heavy commercialisation of what started out as a largely amateur sport, Fridays in Monaco are reportedly the time for the bigwigs living in F1's bubble to capitalise on this much publicised glamour to hobnob with sponsors - current and potential - as well as guide some famous faces around the world of Grand Prix racing.

That being said, it is unlikely that motorsport fans will care much for that aspect of F1 as they will for the first free practice session on Thursday. That was when 17-year-old (he's not 18 until September!) Max Verstappen set the second fastest time around the twisty 3.370 km Circuit de Monaco. It is a circuit that may have the lowest average speed around a single lap but its narrow streets that are flanked by metal barriers and walls test the talent that drivers broadcast to find out if they are the real deal.

The circuit where setting a fast lap time as possible has been described as "trying to ride your bicycle around your living room" by former three-time champion Nelson Piquet has among its roll of winners some of the greatest drivers ever to have played their part in making F1 the fixture on the sporting calendar that it has been for 65 years. Multiple winners include the likes of Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart and Juan Manuel Fangio. So it's fair to say that this is one of the remaining circuits in F1 that really tests a driver's 'X-factor'; a fancy buzzword for the natural talent that separates the great from the good.

MAX'S FURY ROAD

Pastor Maldonado drew jokes and tounge-in-cheek remarks at the Spanish Grand Prix due to the Lotus F1 team's sponsorship with the critically acclaimed blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road. No one was laughing at the 'fury' of Toro Rosso-Renault's Max Verstappen, however when the teenager was just one tenth of a second behind the best time of first free practice set by the Mercedes of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

While it was only free practice, which is when teams tend to experiment with tyre choices, set ups and fuel loads it nevertheless seemed to be one of those 'wow' moments that sport seems to serve up every now and again. In the case of F1 one can look back to examples like Michael Schumacher's head turning pace and performance in practice and qualifying for the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. Not to mention Ayrton Senna's fighting second place in a lowly Toleman at a very rainy 1984 Monaco Grand Prix. More recently one can also cite Juan Pablo Montoya's fearless aggression in taking on the F1 status quo at the 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Verstappen only managed seventh in the second free practice session, although that was before it was cut short due to Roberto Mehri crashing his Manor-Ferrari and then a rain shower within the first 30 minutes of the 90-minute session. At the time the session was stopped, Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg led the time sheets with 1min17.192sec and 1min17.932sec laps. Both of which were comfortably over a second faster than the best time set in last year's second session.

Not only were fans wondering how much faster Hamilton or Rosberg would have gone had the session remained dry but also whether Verstappen could have come anywhere close to repeating his effort in first practice. Nevertheless, the Dutch teenager's talent and intent were both very apparent.

ASKING THE FANS

Also apparent this Monaco GP weekend was an effort by the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) and F1's commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone to get feedback from those who make the existence of any sporting series or championship possible; the fans. Whether they be ones who travel to races to see them live, follow them religiously on television or even on the relatively new medium of social media; all have been asked to have a say about what they feel about the current state of the sport and where it should be heading.

It was particularly ironic that the survey was launched the day members of F1's much maligned Strategy Group - made up of the governing body of F1, the commercial rights owners and selected team principals - admitted that it was not fit to do what it was created for; moving the sport forward in a direction that would allow it to be a competition that would attract new fans as well as retain the older ones who see it less as a distraction on the weekend and more as something to obsess about.

You too can take part in the survey if you like and give your honest feedback to help affect what the sport may end up being from the 2017 season onwards, which is when big changes have been proposed for it.

Tags: FIA Formula 1 World Championship Monaco Grand Prix

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