On Friday, Charles Leclerc achieved a convincing ‘double top’ in his home Monaco Grand Prix, finishing second quickest in practice ahead of Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz. The 24-year-old Monegasque driver, who was also the fastest in the first session, recorded a best lap in one minute and 12.656 seconds to outperform the Spaniard by just 0.044 seconds, leaving the two Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and world champion Max Verstappen more than three-tenths behind. Lando Norris finished fifth for McLaren, ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell and Pierre Gasly, who finished an outstanding seventh for the Alpha Tauri team on a scorching hot afternoon in the Mediterranean principality.
Alpine’s two-time champion Fernando Alonso finished ninth, ahead of Aston Martin’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Yuki Tsunoda in the second Alpha Tauri.
This left a displeased Lewis Hamilton in 12th place, behind Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in the second Mercedes, the seven-time champion dealing with continual bouncing as he sought a comfortable and quick set-up.
The session was briefly halted by a red flag after Daniel Ricciardo crashed in the Swimming Pool complex, but he emerged unhurt from his damaged McLaren.
After setting the fastest time in the first session, Leclerc was quickly back on track in his Ferrari, which was running on hard tyres, as he sought to become the first Monegasque to score points at home since Louis Chiron finished third in 1950 and reclaim the lead in this year’s drivers’ championship.
Verstappen leads the race with 110 points, six more than Leclerc, after his third consecutive victory in Spain on Sunday.
The Red Bulls and Ferraris were within two-tenths of a second of each other while Russell and the rest of the field banged in pursuit, Mercedes still looking for a successful set-up.
During the first session, Hamilton complained about the car’s bouncing, which team director Toto Wolff characterized as “undriveable.”
He noted that it wasn’t the same ‘porpoising’ witnessed earlier this year, but rather a ride height issue.
“Sometimes, it’s a combination of aerodynamics and stiffness, but this is simply stiffness,” he explained, adding that Hamilton had requested elbow cushioning for the second session.
“We’ll strive to make it more fun for them,” he continued, “but we want a quick automobile.” “If it’s quick, we’ll manufacture him all the pads he requires.”
After 14 minutes, Ricciardo lost control of his McLaren and smashed into the barriers at the’swimming pool’ complex, providing another indication of the rough struggle the drivers faced.
He was unharmed, but his car sustained major front damage, thereby terminating his participation. The second red flag of the day caused a seven-minute delay before Valtteri Bottas, back in action following earlier mechanical issues, led the race back in his Alfa Romeo.
The intermission allowed everyone to catch their breath and relax in the heat, with the air temperature at 30 degrees and the track temperature at 53, before returning to an intensive ‘qualifying rehearsal’ scrap.
Leclerc maintained his dominance, cutting his lap time to 1:12.656, three-tenths faster than an improving Perez, before Sainz moved back to second, two-tenths slower.
With 20 minutes to go, Ferrari was ahead of Red Bull’s attack, while others clawed and scraped. Russell touched the barriers at Tabac, Norris at Ste Devote, and Hamilton at Mirabeau – three Brits slipping in the heat before transitioning to lengthier high-fuel-load runs.
Leclerc was noticeably absent with 12 minutes remained, but he returned for the final six to round off a fine day’s effort by the’scarlet Scuderia,’ which concluded with a powerful one-two.