“I think in terms of pace, we have shown that we were quite quick, especially in FP3.
“Also, I think it’s always difficult to say (where we would have been) because at the end, we didn’t start where we wanted to start and we didn’t end up where we wanted to end up. But if you look at the rest of the weekend, I think our pace was similar.”Charles Leclerc
Free practice 2 (FP2) session
I’m going to start saying that it is important to be fair with Charles Leclerc before writing about this analysis. He said that they were quite quick especially in FP3. I will not even analyze FP3 here. Why not? Because to be honest, the FP3 session is not about the fastest times anymore. Teams and drivers alike are very cautious of not crashing the car into the wall and then having to hastily re-assemble the vehicle before the qualifying session. FP3 now is more about feeling the car with lower fuel loads and refining the current setup before the Parc-Fermé conditions.
When it comes to data gathering, the most important session of the weekend, is FP2. In free practice 2, teams are able to do their long runs and quali runs, and are able to push more than during FP3. If they crash, there is still time to fix the car during the night, and try to get the right setup in FP3. In FP3, they do not get that luxury. Because of that, in FP2 is where we can more accurately see how fast and consistent are the drivers with their cars.
Getting to the actual numbers during the FP2 session, we see that both Mercedes drivers came out on top. Lewis Hamilton was was faster by 0.08 seconds than Valtteri Bottas, 0.763 seconds faster than Sebastian Vettel, 0.819 seconds faster than Pierre Gasly, and 1.231 seconds faster than Charles Leclerc. Keep these numbers in mind, they will be important in the next section. Max Verstappen had mechanical problems, so his time is not representative. Leclerc’s delta against Lewis’ best time looks pretty big, so perhaps Ferrari could not get a proper setup for Charles.
As far as FP2 session concerns, then Ferrari did not have a similar one lap pace to Mercedes.
Let’s fast forward to the qualifying session. Sebastian Vettel was the fastest driver in Q1, by virtue of his last minute attempt. However, the German was unable to get close to the best times of the second and third qualy session.
Max Verstappen came out on top of Q2, beating both Mercedes drivers, Vettel and Pierre Gasly. However, as we all know, currently the “party mode” of Mercedes, gives them an edge in Q3.
And yes, Q3 progressed as expected. Lewis Hamilton took pole position, defeating his teammate by 0.085 seconds. Now, remember that I told you that the deltas from FP2 would be important here? Well, you can scroll the image and see for yourself or if you want, just check the table below.
Differences between FP2 and Q3 deltas
Clearly, the FP2 one lap pace was a very good predictor for what we saw in Q3. Yes, Max’s pace and its delta is not shown in the table, just because his FP2 times were not representative of his real speed due to the mechanical issues with the RB15.
Ferrari, with Seb, was at least 7 and a half tenths away from the fastest Mercedes driver in both FP2 and the definitive Q3 session. Yes, he took Q1 at the end, but Mercedes and Red Bull drivers were already classified to Q2 by the time he took the track again. In Q2, Vettel was once again over 6 tenths away from the overall leader, in this case Verstappen, and 0.391 seconds away from the slowest Mercedes driver of the season, in this case, Lewis Hamilton.
As far as Q3, the most important quali session, concerns, Ferrari did not have a similar one lap pace to Mercedes.
Race pace in Monaco is not as important as one lap pace. The extremely narrow track makes it extremely hard for cars with similar pace to overtake.
In this graph, Pierre Gasly is shown to be the fastest, however, he made a two stop strategy since he had nothing to lose, and could indeed set the fastest lap of the race. As you can see, his fastest laps were done at the end of the race, and may not be as representative of his “overall” race pace.
In this case, Sebastian Vettel actually had similar pace to Lewis, trailing by only 42 thousands of a second. We know, however, than in Monaco the race leader controls the pace, so it was expected to see the top cars having a very similar race pace.
Charles Leclerc mentioned that he thought that Ferrari had similar pace to Mercedes during the weekend, especially in FP3. And while he was partially right (he was the fastest of FP3), I would say that FP3 is not a good indicator of overall pace. Most teams will not risk crashing the car in FP3, and will most likely instruct the drivers to be slightly more careful than usual.
In qualy pace, Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel, showed that they were at least 7 tenths away from the fastest Merc driver. They were 0.763 seconds away from Lewis in FP2, and 0.781 seconds away in Q3.
Regarding race pace, Sebastian was indeed very close to Lewis’ pace. However, race pace in Monte Carlo is extremely influenced by the pace of the leader of the race, and may not be as representative of the actual pace of the cars.
For me, the data shows Ferrari was not even close to the pace shown by Mercedes. If anything, this was one of the worst weekends of the season for the Scuderia.
I hope you have enjoyed the article, let me know what you think in the comments below.