24 May 2024

Lewis Hamilton second in Monaco practice to raise hopes of Mercedes challenge

24 May 2024

Lewis Hamilton raised the prospect of challenging at the sharp end of the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix after he finished second in practice.

Hamilton earlier put his Silver Arrows at the top of the order in the first session and later in the day ended up just 0.188 seconds behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Fernando Alonso was third for Aston Martin – nearly half-a-second back and one place ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – with Lando Norris fifth in his McLaren.

Hamilton has not won a race since the penultimate round of the campaign in 2021 in Saudi Arabia, but the seven-time world champion enjoyed a rare strong day in his Mercedes.

The Silver Arrows, the team which once ruled Formula One, have arrived for the eighth round of the campaign in the principality with a revised floor.

And they can take encouragement from Hamilton’s early speed at a venue in which he has won three times previously. Ferrari, too, will be emboldened by Leclerc’s pace as he bids to take a first home win.

“It has been the best day we have had on track,” said Hamilton. “The car was positive and I really enjoyed driving it. We still have some challenges with the balance but it was looking strong.”

Leclerc said: “We arrived here knowing that anything was possible. Mercedes have been struggling since the beginning of the season but they are very fast and we expect them to be the same tomorrow. Lewis has been on it all day.”

However, for Verstappen – just as in Imola a week ago – he endured a scruffy start to his weekend.

The Dutchman complained that his car was jumping around like a kangaroo and he had a number of narrow close shaves with the barriers that wind their way around the unique 2.1-mile street course.

Verstappen could count himself fortunate to escape without any serious damage when his left-rear wheel clouted the Armco as he approached Portier.

“I f****** hit the wall there,” he said over the radio before heading back to the pits.

Verstappen’s form on Friday will be a cause of concern for the driver who has won five of the opening seven rounds.

But the triple world champion, who holds a 48-point lead over Leclerc in the standings, can also take faith from his slow start in Imola which he later transformed into pole position and a win.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took eighth, with George Russell, who finished third in the opening running, only 10th later in the day.

The Englishman, who holds a 6-1 qualifying record over team-mate Hamilton this season, was the best part of a second down.

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