2014 Monaco GP Practice Two: Fernando Alonso fastest after long waiting game
Ferrari ace impresses late on in low-grip conditions, but team-mate Raikkonen suffers gearbox failure; Hailstorm means no race simulations completed; Monaco action resumes on Saturday
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 23/05/14 6:03am
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso emerged on top in a late scramble for laps in Practice Two at the Monaco GP after a big lunchtime hailstorm had led teams to tread carefully for the majority of the session.
Although the morning's running on the tortuous street circuit had proved dry, grey clouds begun to menacingly move in over the usually picturesque Principality and a large hailstorm duly fell on the harbourside circuit in the break between sessions.
And while it had stopped raining by the start of P2, the street track was doused with water and, with the circuit slippery at the best of times at the start of a race weekend and barriers lining its 3.34km length, teams generally opted to keep their drivers and cars ensconced in the garages for the first half of the session.
When sustained track running did finally commence, it was the intermediates which proved the tyres of choice despite the asphalt drying at a reasonably fast rate of knots.
Indeed, despite no further rain falling, it wasn't until the final ten minutes that drivers switched to the slick tyres. What followed was an exciting qualifying-style showdown as drivers, on a mix of the softs and supersofts, grappled with the still low-grip surface in order to maximise what running time was left.
In the end it was two-times Monaco victor Alonso who emerged on top for Ferrari, the Spaniard displaying supreme car control on the supersofts to clock a best time of 1:18.482. The 32-year-old had earlier in the day been publicly praised by Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, amid lingering speculation over the state of the team's relationship with the double World Champion.
Morning pacesetter and championship leader Lewis Hamilton was second for Mercedes - his P1 time still standing as the quickest of the day despite being set on the slower softs - with Sebastian Vettel third for Red Bull. Nico Rosberg, second in the World Championship, ended up down in 20th place, however.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne was fourth ahead of the lead Williams of Valtteri Bottas, the Finn having been the only driver to complete a lap in the opening half an hour, with the Force India pair next up. Jenson Button was eighth for McLaren having earlier led the way on the intermediates.
The other Ferrari of Raikkonen had been one of the earliest drivers to take to the track on the intermediates but soon ran into yet more 2014 trouble when the gearbox in his F14 T failed.
Although the Finn lost the remainder of the session, and most crucially the brief window of supersoft running at the end, the one solace for the former World Champion was that the broken unit in his car wasn't the one he will use from qualifying onwards, meaning he avoids a five-place grid penalty for an out-of-sequence gearbox change.
Raikkonen was later saved from further trouble, this time in Monaco's cramped pitlane, when a Red Bull mechanic leapt to push him out of the way of Sebastian Vettel's pitbox after the former World Champion, already out of the session, had inadvertently wandered in front of it.
With teams' programmes truncated in P2, the biggest consequence was that scant work was completed on their usual Friday afternoon race simulations. It nonetheless ensures that when the action resumes in Monaco on Saturday morning - Friday is traditionally a 'rest day' at F1's blue-riband event - Practice Three is set to be a particularly frantic affair.