Lewis Hamilton says he's living Monaco 'dream' with fast Mercedes
Hamilton says he "has a car that you can exploit and utilise your abilities with" after topping both Thursday sessions; but is Verstappen in the hunt after strong start? And where are Ferrari?
By Matt Morlidge and James Galloway
Last Updated: 24/05/19 11:46am
Lewis Hamilton says he is living a Monaco GP "dream" after enjoying a perfect start to his weekend in a dominant Mercedes.
Coming into F1's showpiece event on the back of a record five consecutive one-twos, Mercedes showed no signs of slowing down around the famous streets with Hamilton topping both of Thursday's practice sessions.
Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were closely-matched throughout, and in second practice they were seven tenths of a second clear of their nearest challengers, laying down an ominous marker ahead of Friday's 'day off'.
"It's the dream for every driver to come to Monaco and have a car that you can exploit and utilise your abilities with," said Hamilton, a two-time Monaco winner.
"I'm really proud of the team and naturally our goal is to try and do something really positive this weekend."
Though Mercedes arrived in Monte Carlo as favourites, it has certainly not always been that way here with Ferrari and Red Bull winning the last two events.
But this year's W10 appears naturally suited to the narrow track - and Hamilton was evidently loving it.
"We've made some small tweaks over the two sessions and during the sessions as well, but I've been quite happy with the set-up," he explained.
"Every year we come back here, it gets faster and you really notice it when you're going past the barriers. Coming into Turn 12, you carry so much speed into that corner, and then there's just the wall in front of you; going up the hill to Casino it's the same thing.
"It's incredibly intense out there and you have to be so focused."
Bottas agreed with his team-mate, adding: "It's been a good day for us on track. In previous years, the car felt sometimes difficult to drive, but today it was very driveable, responsive and enjoyable.
"You need to find the limits on this track and I felt comfortable to push towards the limit, which is a good sign. Now we need to fine tune the set-up and make sure we keep going in the right direction."
But the Finn was also cautious of the competition.
"I think we've started the weekend on the right foot," he stated. "But we're in Monaco and anything can happen."
Can Verstappen challenge?
Max Verstappen remains somewhat of an enigma, and a potential threat to Mercedes in qualifying and beyond.
The Dutchman was Hamilton's closest challenger in first practice - just six hundredths of a second slower - but a technical glitch in Thursday's final session meant he didn't post a truly representative lap.
Pierre Gasly was eight tenths off the Mercedes but if Verstappen's one-second advantage over his team-mate in first practice is anything to go by, he would be right in the fight over the weekend.
"An absolutely dominant day for Mercedes... but expect Max Verstappen to be in and amongst it when we get to qualifying on Saturday."— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) May 23, 2019
Karun Chandhok shares his thoughts on #MonacoGP practice
P2 report: https://t.co/1OKYLUiMnK#SkyF1 schedule: https://t.co/e3uhE0pgWq pic.twitter.com/RRbufzibMA
"Mercedes have a really strong machine but we're aiming to take the fight to them here," Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky F1. "It's going to be pretty tough but I think if anybody can do it, Verstappen can. I think we have a good car this weekend."
Verstappen, however, was cautious and added: "Mercedes is just a bit too quick. We should definitely fill up the gap between second and third."
Pierre Gasly sung a similar tune. "I think we can see that Ferrari, we're in the fight with them," he said. "Mercedes is quite a long way ahead of us."
Where are Ferrari?
Ahead of Red Bull in Practice Two, Ferrari technically ended Thursday as Mercedes' closest challengers, yet neither Sebastian Vettel nor Charles Leclerc sounded especially optimistic about challenging the two Silver Arrows.
"[We] tried a lot of things, they didn't really work, so not that productive," reflected Vettel. "Overall struggling a bit and obviously lacking a bit of pace compared to Mercedes. Struggling a bit to get the tyres to really work, so a bit of work ahead of us."
Leclerc, who did complete a representative P2 time, told Sky F1: "We expected them strong here because they were very strong in the low-speed corners in Barcelona.
"But we need to focus on ourselves, try to put these tyres in the right window and then we'll see."
And, perhaps tellingly, when asked if he felt Ferrari would be fighting Mercedes or Red Bull here, Leclerc replied: "A solid second would be great as a team, so we need to work for that. But obviously we always target the top so in the short term we want to be back with Mercedes."
Sky F1's Monaco GP schedule
Friday, May 24
10.20am: F2 Race One Live!
Saturday, May 25
10.45am: Monaco GP Practice Three build-up
11am: Monaco GP Practice Three Live!
12.10pm: Paddock Walkabout Live!
1pm: Monaco GP Qualifying build-up
2pm: MONACO GP QUALIFYING LIVE! (simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)
3.30pm: The F1 Show Live!
4pm: F2 Race Two Live!
Get Sky Sports F1 for £10
Sky Sports F1 the Home of Live and Exclusive F1 is available for just £10 a month
Sunday, May 26
12.30pm: Monaco GP Pit Lane Live! (simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)
1.30pm: Monaco GP On The Grid Live! (simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)
2.10pm: THE MONACO GRAND PRIX LIVE! (simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)
4pm: Monaco GP Paddock Live!
4.30pm: THE INDY 500 LIVE! (Race starts at 5.45pm)
9pm: Monaco GP highlights
10pm: Monaco GP best bits
10.30pm: Monaco GP race replay
Sky Sports F1 is the home of live and exclusive F1 - and new and existing customers in the UK can now get the channel for just £10 extra a month. Find out more here to watch the 2019 season live