New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Button rates Lotus team to beat

2012-05-25 07:47


GREY SKIES TO BLUE: The 2012 Monaco F1 GP promises to be as exciting as ever - if the first five races of the season are anything to go by.

MONACO - McLaren's Jenson Button set the pace in rain-hit second practice for the 2012 Monaco Formula 1 GP but kept a wary eye on rivals Lotus.

Button, a winner around the treacherous metal-ringed street circuit in his 2009 title season with Brawn GP, skimmed the barriers and roared past the luxury yachts bobbing in the harbour with a fastest time of 1min15.746 on super-soft tyres.

He was looking forward to qualifying on Saturday; Friday is a rest day in the principality.


"We've not done a lot of running for a Thursday at Monaco so I hope Saturday will be a bit better," he said. "The cars that looked very fast for me were the Lotuses. Their runs llook very competitive so I'd say the Lotus is the car to beat so far this weekend."

Button's time was set in on a dry track as drivers got in quick laps in the first 15 minutes before rain clouds darkened the skies and made conditions slippery.

Frenchman Romain Grosjean burnished his hopes of becoming his country's first F1 winner in Monaco since Olivier Panis in a wet 1996 with the second-fastest time for Lotus in both sessions.

"I like Monaco, it's good fun. The car is going well so let's see what we can do later on. It's important to have a car that you are confident with and work every single detail because it makes such a big difference," he said.

A win by Grosjean or team mate Kimi Raikkonen would give F1 a first of having six different winners from six different teams in the first six races.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso had showed his Monaco mastery in the morning with a pace-setting 1min16.265 in a sunny session cut short in a cloud of smoke when Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham blew its engine in the tunnel.

The Spaniard, with wins in Monaco for Renault and McLaren, was fourth in the afternoon without fitting the super-soft tyres.

"I would say first impressions are quite positive," he said of the car. "Everything seems to respond as we would expect. We only made a few small modifications to the set-up, trying to improve it, but it's too early to draw any conclusions."


Ferrari's Felipe Massa, under intense pressure to deliver after scoring just two points in five races, was an encouraging third in the second session.

Mexican Sergio Perez, returning to the scene of his big accident in qualifying last year, had been third in the morning for Sauber with race favourite Lewis Hamilton fourth for McLaren.

The largely incident-free first session was red-flagged with just over nine minutes to go when Kovalainen's car blew its engine and filled the tunnel - the fastest point of the circuit - with smoke.

Kovalainen parked up at the tunnel exit as drivers threaded their way through the smoke. With oil also deposited on the track, organisers decided not to re-start the session. That left 2007 champion Raikkonen at the bottom of the timing screens after the Finn completed an installation lap but failed to set a time. He sat out the rest of the session as mechanics worked on his car.

"The steering wasn't to my liking so the team changed it for me," Raikkonen said. "It's something you change for Monaco and there's no way of knowing what it will be like beforehand."


Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, surprise winner for Williams at the previous race in Spain but now among the favourites at a track he loves, was again among the front-runners with the fifth-fastest time in both sessions.

Red Bull's double World champion and last year's winner Sebastian Vettel, joint championship leader with Alonso, clocked the ninth and 10th best times respectively.

Five-times Monaco winner and seven-times World champion Michael Schumacher damaged his Mercedes's front wing when he rode over the kerbs at the swimming pool complex in the morning. He was 11th then and ninth in the afternoon.

Stay with Wheels24 for the Monaco Grand Prix weekend!


There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.