Ferrari upstaged Mercedes and Red Bull as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz topped the times on the opening day of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Bulls and Benzes have yet to engage their qualifying boost settings, which should take them back to the top when the going gets tough on Saturday, but the signs are positive for the red racers as they continue their comeback run through season 2021.
“It was quite a surprise to have the day end so well, after we had a difficult start this morning,” said Leclerc, who had saluted his hometown friends on his first lap of the day but then parked soon after with a broken gearbox.
“We shouldn’t get too carried away, because I am convinced that our competitors have more in hand.”
After clocking a time that was only one-tenth slower than Leclerc’s benchmark at 1 minute 11.684 seconds, Sainz agreed with his team mate’s assessment.
“It has been a very positive first day for the team here in Monaco, but we know it is only practice. Things can change a lot from Thursday to Saturday at this track, so we will stay focused. Despite being quite happy with the car, we’ll keep working hard over the next two days to understand where we can improve,” Sainz said.
The first-day results on the world’s favourite grand prix course were surprising, as Antonio Giovanazzi and Sebastian Vettel both made it into the Top 10 but are unlikely to stay there after qualifying with their Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin runners.
But Hamilton is the one most likely to upset the order after a Friday break, because of a traditional public holiday in Monaco, with Verstappen also eager.
“For me personally, this is a track where you need to walk before you can run but you’ve got to do that quickly, obviously. The grip on this track is really high this year, they’ve redone the surface so there’s a lot of grip,” said Hamilton.
“The car is good, we’ve made some decent steps with the balance so generally I’m very happy. I’ve got some changes I’ll make this evening.”
“Although we did quite well in FP1, this afternoon’s session was tricky and I would have hoped that we could have been faster,” said Verstappen.
“We were too slow in FP2 and we really need to find some pace. We were quite off.
“I usually feel quite comfortable in the car but that has not come yet this weekend. Luckily, we have a free day tomorrow to look at a few things to improve to make sure qualifying goes well on Saturday.”
MONACO GRAND PRIX