James Allen's Thursday form guide
For the first time since the season-opener in Australia back in March, McLaren heads into a grand prix weekend as the team to beat following a strong practice day in Monte Carlo.
ITV Sport commentator James Allen explains why Lewis Hamilton in particular is looking supreme on the streets and analyses how Ferrari approaches the weekend from here.
Lewis Hamilton looks in great shape this weekend, judging by his performance in second practice especially. The McLaren is working very well and Lewis just has the right line around here.
After the session I walked back to the paddock with Jacques Laffite, who commentates for TF1 in France. He said that Lewis’s driving around here reminds him of Senna.
I know what he means. There is a mesmerising quality to the way the car goes along what seems a different and faster line than the others. It’s almost as if it is being pulled along by an invisible force.
He feels very good this weekend and at the end of the session you saw him waving to the crowds and the marshals on his in-lap. That is a sign of a man who is feeling light and confident.
Less poetically and more practically, the McLaren looks in great shape on the soft ‘option’ tyre on the first lap, so will be dynamite in qualifying (if it stays dry).
The team also seem able to get the soft tyre to last quite well over a stint, which is unusual for them this year.
And they are very fast on the long runs on the harder ‘prime’ tyre, as they have been all season – so I cannot see a weakness in Lewis’s game here and, if all goes according to plan and the weather doesn’t ruin it for him (which it might), I think he’ll dominate the weekend.Back on top
t will give him a welcome opportunity to put his team-mate in the shade. From Hamilton’s perspective Heikki Kovalainen has been doing a bit too well lately and Lewis needs to re-establish his supremacy within the team.
Monaco has come at just the right time for him from that point of view. Kovalainen isn’t that special around here. He’s two, maybe three, tenths of a second per lap slower than Lewis.
The same is true at Ferrari, where Kimi Raikkonen has an advantage over Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian isn’t precise enough to be fast here and he admitted to some of my colleagues that he will be happy to get away with some points this weekend.
Ferrari need to find some first-lap pace for qualifying if they are to challenge Hamilton.
Lewis bolted on a set of soft tyres and did a 1m15.1s straight off. Both Massa and Raikkonen did the same and got a 1m16.0s. They tried again and Kimi did 1m15.572s.
Of course we don’t know what the fuel loads were, but the weight penalty for carrying extra fuel here is not great, so the Ferraris would have to have been brimmed for that kind of difference to emerge.
This is unlikely. Both teams tend to run a similar amount of fuel in this session.The battle for pole
The race at Monaco is generally decided on the final runs in qualifying on Saturday.
Last year Hamilton was set to beat Fernando Alonso to pole but hit traffic. So Ferrari have cause to worry about how they can fight Hamilton if he has superior speed in qualifying.
Nevertheless the Ferrari is quick enough on long runs and Raikkonen is Hamilton’s major threat this weekend.
So too is Robert Kubica. The Pole didn’t show his hand today, as usual, but he’s very fast at Monaco and his BMW is well suited to the track. It has great change of direction and lots of traction out of the corners.
Today he was complaining about instability under braking, but they will sort that out and I think he will be very aggressive in qualifying in an attempt to start at the front of the grid.
Because the field gets so spread out here and it is so hard to pass, running at the front, even if you have to pit earlier than the rest, will still bag you a great result.
SOURCE: http://www.itv-f1.com/Feature.aspx?Type ... n&id=42732