Watching from La Rascasse (Part 2)
In Part 2 of Watching from La Rascasse, we look at some of the other drivers who were out on Thursday afternoon at Monaco. Sadly there was no Romain Grosjean when we were camera-ready: by then, he had hit the Ste Devote guard-rail.
Paul Di Resta (below, top) looked extremely good here, with a decisively-early approach, a clean rotation from a stable mid-corner and an effectively clean exit. Adrian Sutil (below, bottom) was all of that but a shade wider, and thus a shade more conservative, on his approach. Both drivers looked excellent; the difference between them was smaller than the difference between the Mercedes boys.
For all his cool headgear, Jean-Eric Vergne (below,top) is much more Jean-Pierre Jarier than he is Francois Cevert. A wide, soft approach. Lots of aggression with the brakes, the steering and the release of same. Lots of car-control, of course, but none of the straight lines that typified Francois, particularly in 1973. Daniel Ricciardo (below,bottom) exhibited a slightly shorter corner and more seamless transitions. Like McLaren, Toro Rosso have two “long corner” (but very skilful, very spectacular) drivers.
Pastor Maldonado, as stated earlier, was almost scary to watch at Rascasse, if only because his Alesi-like turn-in (and feel) leaves him absolutely no margin at all in terms of the inside rear and the apex. With Grosjean, you’re always thinking “exit oversteer”; with Pastor (below, top) it’s “early commitment”. He looked knife-sharp from where I sat – and up at Casino Square, where he was blindingly late on the brakes, he was jaw-droppingly fearless – the more so because the Williams is still a difficult car. This was the best Pastor has looked so far this year. Valtteri (below, bottom), by contrast, was for me a bit disappointing – if only because one’s expectations are always so high with this guy. A relatively wide and frequently brake-locked approach was compromised by minimum speeds too high by far: the back end would judder out, Walter would have to lift, opposite lock would be applied…and finally he was out of there. It was uncomfortable to watch and probably not much fun to execute. I’m sure it’ll be better by Sunday…
Sauber’s pair, by contrast, were surprisingly different from one another. Nico Hulkenberg (below, top) had more initial steering input than, say, Romain Grosjean, and a longer corner than Daniel Ricciardo. He played with the throttle early and, like Alonso, always gave himself a touch of oversteer before main rotation just beyond this photograph. He gives the impression, in other words, of asking quite a lot from the tyres and, of course, from the car. Esteban Gutierrez (below, bottom) was for me probably the most surprising driver of the session. He was neat, composed, early into the corner, and displayed lots of good handwork and mid-corner patience. He wasn’t the quickest guy out there, of course, but this was a good way to start a Monaco weekend. From here he has a useful platform from which to build.
Jules Bianchi (below, top) was much tighter on approach than Max Chilton (below, bottom); indeed, Jules was as early, and as rhythmic with his hand- and footwork, as Paul Di Resta. Despite that sort of talent alongside him, Max Chilton has nonethless chosen to go the long-corner way. Yes, it leaves him more margin for error, particularly on a circuit like Monaco; no, it isn’t as efficient.
I couldn’t see much difference between the two Caterham drivers, Charles Pic (below, top) and Guido van der Garde (below, bottom). Charles was pretty neat and tidy through the fourth-gear esses in Malaysia but here he was definitely giving himself a nice, soft corner entry with plenty of initial steering input. Likewise Guido, which must be a bit frustrating for the engineers.