"Well, Pirelli tell us the softs are going to be able to do 28 laps this weekend and 23 for the super softs," said Lewis Hamilton at Monaco on Thursday, in such a way that invited a further question. Did he believe that? "No," he laughed. "Not for one moment. Why would you believe engineers!"
After all, an engineer might suggest that a Red Bull is not beatable - and that's not information Lewis is up for hearing. And nor is Fernando Alonso. These two indefatigable competitors very much sense that the unusual demands of Monte Carlo just might be able to level the playing field for them - and the early indications from practice suggest they could be right. The pointers also suggest that the Pirelli engineers might be right about the durability of their tyres - and if that is the case, might we be in for a relatively conventional Monaco Grand Prix, far removed from the crazy, tyre-wear dominated races of late?
Sebastian Vettel managed 17 laps on super softs in practice © LAT
Sebastian Vettel completed a 17-lap run on the super soft and was still able to lap in the high 1m18s at the end of it - a similar pace to that of his early laps. That's way more than many were expecting and the prospect of a crazily mixed-up race from tyres good only for a handful of laps seems to have receded.
It's true that Vettel did have to back off several times during that run in order to cool the tyres, to keep them alive, and that's not something he will have the luxury of during the race, but nonetheless it's a tyre that does look capable of giving sensible stint lengths. Vettel's best time over a short run on the super soft was half-a-second shy of Alonso - who headed the FP2 times with a visibly on-the-limit effort that drew gasps of admiration from even the most hardened observers. The Ferrari is traditionally very good under braking and traction and this in combination with the softest rubber should make it a very usable tool around here.
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