From a neutral point of view, there are some hopes that this weekend could bring to an end the dominant run Red Bull Racing are on this season and, with Friday practice coming to an end in Monaco it seems at least possible, with the field looking quite close up at the front.
The Bulls have been excellent so far this season and, especially on a Sunday, have been very hard to catch.
Indeed, they have won all five grands prix this year so far, and the sprint race in Azerbaijan as well, meaning they already have a commanding lead up at the top of the Constructors’ standings.
However, qualifying on a Saturday has sometimes had a few issues instore for them and, in Monaco, if that trend continues tomorrow there could well be a different driver other than Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez on the top step.
Practice today, then, was our first chance to see how possible that might be and it seems fair to suggest it could be done, but you’d probably argue Red Bull are still favourites for the win.
In FP1 on Friday, Carlos Sainz actually topped the session for Ferrari ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton – with Perez in fourth and Verstappen down in sixth with him complaining about several issues with the RB19, including the clutch.
There were bigger problems in the first hour of running for the likes of Nico Hulkenberg, though, with him clouting the barriers and forcing a red flag, as he crawled back to the pits with a puncture.
That was not the sole red flag, meanwhile, as Alex Albon slammed into the wall at Sainte-Devote – ruining both the front left and rear left corners of the car and leaving the Williams team with quite the job on to get it ready in time for FP2.
The classification after the first hour, then, was thus:
Sainz, Alonso, Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc, Verstappen, Norris, Ocon, Stroll, Albon, Bottas, Magnussen, Tsunoda, Gasly, Russell, De Vries, Piastri, Sargeant, Zhou, Hulkenberg.
Into FP2 we went, then, and it was Verstappen who moved to the top of the time-sheets but by less than a tenth, offering hopes we might have a close-run thing tomorrow in the battle for pole.
The Dutchman was quickest from Charles Leclerc and Sainz, and it appears the Ferrari is looking strong around the Principality once again this season.
Sainz’s day did not end how he would have liked, though, with him shunting around the swimming pool section and sparking a red flag with around 15 minutes of the session left – though it did at least give Albon and Williams some time to get out running at the end of the session and post a competitive time.
Williams, though, were worried about how their car might fare around here and so those fears seem to be proving fair, with them 19th and 20th-fastest behind the two rookies of Nyck de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda.
The battle for pole tomorrow looks like it could be between Red Bull and Ferrari at least, then, whilst you would not rule out Fernando Alonso being in the mix and Mercedes will surely be learning at least a fair bit from their new upgrades on their car – though around Monaco that is tempered.
Plenty to look forward to in Saturday’s running, though, with FP3 and all-important qualifying on the agenda.