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Hamilton, Vettel lead Monaco practice sessions

Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the opening practice in Monaco while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel went quickest in the second session.

In the opening session Hamilton out ran Vettel by almost two tenths of a second. The Mercedes driver also eclipsed last year’s pole position time and beat his own Monaco lap record by 4.5s. Hamilton's lap of of 1:13.425 on Pirelli's ultrasoft tires was 0.196 seconds quicker than Vettel. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen was third 0.15 seconds off Vettel.

The opening 90-minute session saw a number of drivers quickly try out the weekend’s softest available compound, the Pirelli ultrasoft, and Vettel set the early pace. However, the Ferrari man, who has a six-point title lead over Hamilton going into this weekend, was edged out of top spot when Mercedes swapped from supersoft tyre work to ultrasofts soon after the hour mark had passed.

“I was pretty happy with the afternoon session”, said Vettel “We had a small issue at the start of the session which needed some extra time to be looked at, but then we were on our way. It’s fun to drive these cars around Monaco because they’re faster than in the past. They’re also wider, and I kissed the barrier a couple of times this morning, but I could carry on with no damage."

Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.

Kimi Räikkönen was seventh in the second Ferrari, though the Finn was more than half a second slower than Vettel over the 3.337km circuit. Force India’s Sergio Perez was eighth, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr. Esteban Ocon was 10th quickest.

Jenson Button was 14th on his return to McLaren as stand-in for Fernando Alonso. Despite only having driven McLaren’s car on the team’s simulator Button completed 35 laps for a best time of 1:14.954 which was 0.141 behind teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg failed to complete a flying lap after a problem was discovered with his car’s energy store A geabox issue sidelined the Sauber of Marcus Ericcson.

Sebastian Vettel went quickest in the second session, with a best lap of 1:12.720 set on ultrasoft tires was the fastest ever lap of the Circuit de Monaco. Vettel finished the session 0.487 seconds ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. Third place went to Kimi Räikkönen in the second Ferrari.

“Overall it has been a good day." said Vettel "It’s only Thursday, so we have to wait for Saturday to get a clear picture, but it is nice to have a good feeling with the car already. I was very happy with the first run in the morning and since then we didn’t have to change too much, but we improved the car in the afternoon. It feels good on a quick lap, the long runs are a bit harder to judge because of traffic. Now it’s about fine-tuning and we have time for that. Yet, we still have to do something more on the car to be more competitive. Meanwhile, we’ll have some commitments at the track tomorrow; it is more relaxed than usual because we have more time, but we are definitely not on holiday!”

Mercedes found the going tougher in the afternoon session. Hamilton slumped to eighth place 1.153 seconds slower than Vettel.

"We didn’t have the greatest day today." said Hamilton "Practice one was actually really good and we were quickest, but then in second practice we just struggled to extract the grip from the tires and we were sliding around a lot. I’m not sure why the tyres weren’t working but the difference between the two sessions was night and day. We’v e got some work to do ahead of Saturday that’s for sure but I’m confident the team can work it out. Monaco is always amazing to drive, but this is definitely the best car I’ve driven around here. Ferrari are very quick again and Red Bull are also looking good this weekend. We’re looking forward to a real fight on Saturday."

Bottas finished in place 10th.

"Practice two was difficult and we struggled with the pace over one lap." said Bottas "We made some changes between practice one and practice two but we clearly went in the wrong direction - that’s why both of us were struggling. When the car isn’t quite right you lose a lot of time in Monaco. We tried to go back with the set-up and it felt better but by that point we’d already put a lot of laps into the tyres. At least we’ve learned what not to do with the set-up here. It’s a shame but we have a full day tomorrow to analyse everything and come back stronger on Saturday. It will be close again at the top I’ m sure."

Fourth place was Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat fifth was his teammate Carlos Sainz. Max Verstappen was sixth followed by Sergio Perez.

Esteban Ocon made contact with the barriers on the run to Portier but managed to complete 47 laps but finished in 15th place.

Lance Stroll lost the rear end of his Williams on the way up to Casino Square and hit the barriers hard breaking the front right suspension bring out the red flags ending his day.

Nico Hulkenberg ended the session 17th quickest suffering ERS issues in his Renault. Teammate Jolyon Palmer completed only eight laps in the afternoon after he pulled over at Portier with smoke pouring from the back of his car.

Jenson Button climbed to twelfth posting a best time of 1:13.981, just over five hundredths of a second behind 11th-placed teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:13.425s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:13.621s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:13.771s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:13.791s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:13.854s
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:14.111s
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:14.164s
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1:14.201s
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:14.333s
10 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:14.425s
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:14.617s
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:14.813s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:14.870s
14 Jenson Button McLaren 1:14.954s
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:15.321s
16 Lance Stroll Williams 1:15.595s
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:15.949s
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:16.258s
19 Nico Hulkenberg Renault
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber

Free Practice 2
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:12.720s
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:13.207s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:13.283s
4 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:13.331s
5 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:13.400s
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:13.486s
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:13.799s
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:13.873s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:13.890s
10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:13.902s
11 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:13.946s
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:13.981s
13 Felipe Massa Williams 1:14.003s
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:14.022s
15 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:14.093s
16 Lance Stroll Williams 1:14.474s
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:14.870s
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:15.616s
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:15.691s
20 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:15.695s


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