The morning session (FP1) proved to be incident-filled with two Virtual Safety Car (VSC) periods and a red-flag stoppage three minutes from the checkered flag for a loose drain cover near Sainte-Devote. The Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg traded the top spot in the session, with Hamilton ultimately laying down an untouchable 1:15.537 lap after 60 minutes of running.
Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez opted to run the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tires throughout FP1, and both drivers set their fastest times during their second stints. Grosjean’s best was 1:17.599, set during an 11-lap run to put him 12th overall. Gutiérrez’s quickest time was 1:17.909 to put him 14th overall. However, an electrical issue brought a premature end to Gutiérrez’s session after 25 laps. He was forced to retire his VF-16 at Portier with just under 30 minutes remaining.
The afternoon session (FP2) featured more action, as three VSC periods were needed for separate incidents involving Manor’s Rio Haryanto, Renault’s Kevin Magnussen and Grosjean. Shod on Pirelli’s new P Zero Purple ultrasoft tires, Grosjean lost the rear of his VF-16 while braking into the chicane. He clipped the outer barrier, with the impact destroying his front wing and puncturing his right-front tire.
In a testament to the tenaciousness of Haas F1 Team, crew members worked vigorously to get Grosjean back on track. After 40 minutes of quick and efficient work, Grosjean wheeled his VF-16 out of the garage and onto the circuit. He logged a total of 23 laps and set a best time of 1:16.874 during his second stint, good for 15th fastest among the 22 drivers.
Gutiérrez, running exclusively on ultrasofts during the afternoon session, clicked off 40 trouble-free laps to bounce back from the morning’s retirement. Setting a quick time of 1:16.782 on his third run of the session to place him 13th, Gutiérrez concluded his day with a 15-lap stint to further evaluate the new ultrasoft tire.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was the dominant force of the afternoon. His blistering lap of 1:14.607 was sixth hundredths of a second ahead of the next best effort, a 1:15.213 from Hamilton. Ricciardo’s time was nearly five tenths of a second faster than last year’s pole-winning mark of 1:15.098, also earned by Hamilton, and it brought Ricciardo incredibly close to the all-time race lap record of 1:14.439 set by Michael Schumacher in 2004 with Ferrari.
Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 121 laps – 56 by Grosjean and 65 by Gutiérrez.
Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team
“It was Monaco. It was tricky. This morning went quite smoothly. We made some setup changes for the afternoon, but I think we’ve got room for some big improvements. The first run this afternoon, I lost the car under braking into the chicane. The guys did an amazing job to put the car back together. We were lucky that there wasn’t too much damage. Eventually, we did manage to finish most of our program, which is good. We now have a full day tomorrow to work on the data. It’s always tricky to come to Monaco for the first time as a team, but I’m sure we can find some more performance.”
Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team
“It was a very productive day, and fantastic to be back in Monaco as it’s a track I really enjoy. I think it was important for me at the start to get my confidence from the first session. I didn’t race last year, so it was great to try and get in as many laps as possible. The team did a great job to recover this morning from a small issue we had in FP1, so it was pretty good we managed to get out in FP2. Overall, I think we’ll be working on fine tuning a few details and then we’ll be ready for qualifying.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
“We had two pretty good sessions. There were some typical Monte Carlo problems, especially in the afternoon with Romain. He lost the car, had a small bit of damage, but the team worked pretty quickly to fix it. In the morning, we ran well, except again for Esteban’s car, he had a small electrical problem which left him short of running the last half an hour. All in all, there’s always a little bit of drama at Monte Carlo, but I think we are making progress. We’ll see what happens on Saturday in FP3, and then it’s time to be ready for qualifying. Everybody’s done a good job and we’re feeling pretty confident.”
Drivers have one more practice session on Saturday (11:00-12:00) before qualifying starts at 14:00. Qualifying consists of three rounds, with the 16 fastest drivers from Q1 moving on to Q2. Then, the 10 fastest drivers from Q2 advance to Q3 where they’ll battle for the pole.