Uncovered: Monaco GP practice data reveals where Ferrari hold the early edge over Red Bull

Pablo Hidalgo
Monaco GP data showed Ferrari had the edge in practice.

Charles Leclerc looked in strong form in Monaco GP practice, and the data backs that up.

Friday’s free practice day at the Monaco Grand Prix left us with two very close sessions with the drivers pushing hard from minute one.

On a circuit where Saturday’s qualifying will be key, the teams tried to run as much as possible to get the drivers as close as possible and find the limits of the track.

Monaco GP data: Ferrari hold early edge with Charles Leclerc practice performance

Friday at the Monaco GP left us, as fans, with a very good taste in our mouths. Not exactly because of any spectacular on-track action, but because of what Saturday may have in store for us.

The drivers have pushed their cars to the limit and it looks like, because of how closely-matched the cars are, it will be the drivers that will make the difference in the fight for pole.

Among all the drivers, Charles Leclerc has been the reference this Friday in Monte Carlo.

The Ferrari driver felt very comfortable with the SF-24 on the streets of his home and seems to be the best placed driver for pole tomorrow.

He has been going from strength to strength since FP1, taking risks on his fastest laps and going to the limit to beat Max Verstappen’s pole time of 2023 by 0.087s.

This has been possible thanks to the great stability shown by the Ferrari on the front and rear end. Both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz didn’t need any major set-up changes from the first green light and accumulated a lot of positive running time. A total of 70 laps in two hours of free practice for the Monégasque, to be precise.

Another driver who pushed himself to the limit was Max Verstappen, even touching the wall at the exit of Mirabeau Bas in FP2.

He also suffered from traffic on some of his flying laps which prevented him from putting together a good Sector 2 and Sector 3 after his first attempt with the soft tyres.

The Dutchman complained of excessive bouncing on his car, comparing it to a “kangaroo” during FP2.

As in Imola, Red Bull’s start to the weekend has not been ideal. But as was the case last week, it can’t be ruled out at all that the reigning World Champion will suddenly be back on top tomorrow.

If we compare the fastest laps between Leclerc and Verstappen, we can see that up until the first half of the lap, the delta has been fairly constant and only affected by the different driving style of both.

The biggest time loss was in the tunnel, where Verstappen lost about a tenth of a second to the Ferrari driver due to a lower top speed.

It is true that top speed is less important in Monaco – the drivers rarely using eighth gear, if at all – but running with a more conservative engine map, as seems to have been the case for the Milton Keynes team with fewer maximum revs on the telemetry, is noticeable.

And already at the end of Sector 2 and Sector 3, the delta has shot up through the different twists and turns.

The Red Bull seems to be a nervous car going through the kerbs and that mechanical problem will not be easy to solve with a change of ride in the setup, as Verstappen explained, telling F1 TV: “These kind of things you cannot solve with setup because that’s how the car is made and designed and these kinds of things you cannot change overnight, so we are stuck with that.

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“We’ll try to make it a little bit better. But I don’t expect any miracles.

“Ferrari are miles ahead so I’m not even thinking about that for tomorrow.

“I just want to try and solve the issues that we have, try to make it a little bit more drivable. And then we’ll see where we end up, but I don’t expect any miracles.”

However, the gap between them and Ferrari is unlikely to be that big tomorrow even if the Scuderia are in a better starting position.

Therefore, we can see a more stable Ferrari in general terms, but until Red Bull does not bring out the full potential it will be difficult to assess where both Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc really make the difference.

Tomorrow will be a very interesting day and the battle for pole is wide open. For now, Ferrari and Leclerc have already put the first piece of the puzzle in place.

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