Heikki Kovalainen, or rather the Renault engine in the back of his Caterham, was responsible for a premature end to this morning’s free practice session in Monte Carlo.
The Finn’s car started billowing out smoke as he went through the tunnel six minutes from the end of the session, bringing out the red flag.
His team managed to fit a new engine in the car for Free Practice 2, and Kovalainen finished that rain-affected 90 minutes 21st on the timesheets.
“This morning’s session went pretty well,” said Kovalainen. “We tried a new suspension part early on that felt pretty good, and then we ran through a normal FP1 session on the primes until the engine let go as I was entering the tunnel towards the end of the session. As soon as I engaged neutral the rear axle locked up and that brought FP1 to a slightly early end.
“In FP2 everyone had the same issues with the rain and even though we got a couple of laps done on the supersofts I didn’t have a chance to put in a flying lap on those so we’ll have to look at that again on Saturday. We made the final run on the inters and coming into turn five the car went straight on – it was very greasy out there but there was no damage so I parked it and that was that.”
Vitaly Petrov had a less eventful day in the sister Caterham, finishing the day sixteenth – faster than the two Toro Rosso drivers.
“Both sessions were good for me today,” said the Russian. “Even though we'd obviously liked to have had more time on the options this afternoon the rain interrupted the run we tried on the super softs, but that was the same for pretty much everyone so we're all in the same position.
“In FP2 the car felt pretty good and even though the track was very slippery when we went out on the inters I still felt like we have a decent balance to work from . This is one of the races where we need to make sure we're there at the chequered flag and not make any mistakes, so having had a few laps in what will probably be the trickiest conditions all weekend I'm feeling good about the sessions ahead, and the race on Sunday.”
Technical director Mark Smith, said that Kovalainen’s engine was coming to the end of its life anyway, and seemed reasonably pleased with the team’s efforts today.
“Today’s practice sessions were ok for us, if a bit stop start with the weather in FP2,” he said. “This morning we tried a couple of new suspension parts on both cars that worked as we had expected and even though Heikki’s FP1 was cut short by the engine failure it was at the end of the session and we did not lose any track time as the session was red flagged. The new engine he ran in FP2 was due to go on his car tomorrow anyway, it had covered more than 2,000kms, so it really was not a big problem for us to see his morning session end that spectacularly! The team worked very well with Renault Sport F1 to make the engine change over lunch and Heikki was back on track about six minutes after FP2 began.
“In the afternoon session we managed to get Vitaly and Heikki out on the supersofts before the rain came back, so we have some data from those runs that will be useful for Saturday and Sunday. We finished the session with intermediates on both cars but as we also managed to complete enough laps on the softs in FP1 I think we’re ok data-wise for the rest of the race weekend.”