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Analysis | Sector times highlight where Red Bull lose out to Ferrari

Analysis | Sector times highlight where Red Bull lose out to Ferrari

27 May - 18:07
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Formula 1 ended a long-running tradition today by completing two practice sessions on the Friday of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. In souring temperatures, drivers recorded some important data on the streets of Monaco. Ferrari topped the timesheets, with a one-two in the second free practice session so it looks like they have the best chances for pole position. GPblog takes a look at the ideal best lap times to see whether this is the case. 

Important qualifying session

Qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix is notoriously known as the most important Saturday session of the entire year. Though that point isn't exactly true when looking at the data. It wasn't the case last time out in Spain but pole position in Barcelona has won an incredible 72% of races. Monaco is still high for Formula 1, but way down in comparison at 45%. Since 2015, pole position has won twice at Monaco. Prior to that, there was a six-race run of the pole-sitter also taking the victory on Sunday. 

However, in the last four Monaco Grands Prix, there have been less than 10 on track overtakes combined. So what happened to the pole-sitter? In 2021, Leclerc secured pole position but crashed on the way back to the garage. Ferrari thought they had solved the problem, but on the way to the grid Leclerc broke down. There was no Grand Prix in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, 2016 and 2015 the race-winning move occurred in the pitlane. 

The pressure on the pit crew in Monaco is immense. The undercut is extremely powerful, and any mistake in the pitlane is, therefore, more costly. Mercedes estimate the drive-through time at 19.4 seconds. Against fresh tyres, that's difficult to combat. With the safety car probability at 60%, teams also have to be quick on the button to react and bring their driver in for an advantageous pitstop. 

All of this means that the long-run data is less relevant compared to most other events in the season. Teams and drivers spent extra time and focus in the second free practice session on the qualifying simulations. Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas are two drivers that missed out running today and will be out of rhythm going into the rest of the weekend. 

Ideal lap times 

Driver Best sector 1 Best sector 2 Best sector 3 Ideal lap time
Charles Leclerc 19.134 (fastest) 34.370 19.104 (fastest) 1:12.608 (1st)
Carlos Sainz 19.312 34.193 (fastest) 19.158 1:12.663 (2nd)
Sergio Perez 19.333 34.404 19.281 1:13.018 (4th)
Max Verstappen 19.310 34.330 19.318 1:12.958 (3rd)
Lando Norris 19.326 34.452 19.308 1:13.086 (5th)
George Russell 19.445 34.478 19.401 1:13.324 (6th)

On the ideal lap times, Ferrari are still way ahead. Verstappen closes the gap a little bit, but the Red Bull still lacks pace. Carlos Sainz absolutely nailed the middle sector, going around two-tenths faster than anyone else.

Very little difference separates the three sectors at Monaco with them all having similar characteristics. However, the middle sector is a little bit twistier compared to the other two. Sainz's very quick time shows that Ferrari have a better front-end grip, their car is really hooked up through this section.

Aside from Leclerc's quickest time in sector one, George Russell is very close to the top drivers in the first two sectors. But the British driver drops off in the final part of the circuit where there are more bumps and kerbs. Both Mercedes are struggling with this issue. As predicted, Ferrari are on top and are favourites to claim pole position. 

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