The everlasting championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel continued today on the streets of Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix. The top two drivers fought a good fight at the top of the timing sheets in the morning, but only one was still there come nightfall…
Hamilton drew first blood in Monaco, turning in a best lap of 1:13.425 around the tight streets of the principality to finish two-tenths clear of Vettel at the top of the first practice.
While Mercedes and Ferrari were running close once again, Red Bull also got into the mix with Max Verstappen finishing third, three-tenths off Lewis Hamilton. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo had to settle down for fifth.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth in the second Mercedes, but Kimi Raikkonen was less able to match his teammate’s pace, coming home seventh for Ferrari, half a second down on his Vettel’s time.
Toro Rosso and Force India had impressive sessions as both teams got their drivers into the top 10. Daniil Kvyat shone in sixth for Toro Rosso as teammate Carlos Sainz was ninth, sandwiched by the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.
Jenson Button’s first running in a 2017 Formula 1 car was impressive as he finished 14th for McLaren. The Briton completed 31 laps in the first session and was less than two-tenths slower than teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, proving he hasn’t lost any of skill over his winter hiatus.
By the end of the morning session, all drivers had completed laps except Marcus Ericsson and Nico Hulkenberg, who suffered from gearbox and energy store problems respectively.
Going into the afternoon with a point to prove, Sebastian Vettel came out swinging for the second practice in Monaco, posting an unofficial lap record in the process. It was a 1:12.720 for the championship leader, putting him more than half a second ahead of the rest and the only lap of the day that was in the 1:12s.
Both Ferraris looked more comfortable than the Mercedes cars throughout the session, with tyre warm-up problems leaving Hamilton in a lowly eighth, a whopping 1.1 seconds off Vettel’s time. The other Mercedes didn’t fare any better, as Valtteri Bottas was tenth.
Last year’s Monaco runner-up Daniel Ricciardo posed the closest challenge to Vettel at the top, finishing second and seven tenths off P1, while Kimi Raikkonen was third in the second Ferrari.
Toro Rosso emerged as the surprise package of FP2 as Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished fourth and fifth respectively, having been the early pace-setters before Vettel and co. went faster.
Max Verstappen was sixth for Red Bull ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, while Kevin Magnussen split the Mercedes drivers in ninth.
Jenson Button’s impressive return to F1 on Thursday continued as he finished 12th, lapping just 0.035 seconds off teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in 11th.
Two of F1 2017’s early strugglers saw their plight deepen in FP2 as both Jolyon Palmer and Lance Stroll hit trouble. Palmer suffered an engine failure early in the session, limiting him to just eight laps, while Stroll crashed out at Massenet with 35 minutes remaining.
As Friday is an ‘off’ day in Monaco, the action will resume on Saturday morning with the final practice session before qualifying.