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Monaco GP: Red Bull's Max Verstappen tops Practice Two from Ferraris as Carlos Sainz crashes

Max Verstappen edged Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to top the timesheet in Practice Two; Sainz ended what had been a strong day with a heavy crash; Lewis Hamilton sixth in upgraded Mercedes; watch Monaco GP qualifying live on Sky Sports F1 from 2:30pm on Saturday

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Carlos Sainz whacks the inside barrier at the Swimming Pool Chicane to crash and cause a red flag in FP2

Max Verstappen recovered from a troubling start to the Monaco Grand Prix weekend to narrowly top Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in second practice.

Verstappen, whose Red Bull team have dominated the opening five races of the season, endured a frustrating opening session on Friday as he could only finish sixth amid struggles to get to grips with his RB19 around Formula 1's most famous circuit.

However, a much-improved display from the world championship leader saw him produce a lap of 1:12.462 to finish six hundredths of a second clear of Leclerc, who will be seeking a third successive pole at his home circuit on Saturday.

Sainz had enjoyed a hugely-impressive day, topping Practice One and showing strong pace on hard tyres early in the later session, but his afternoon was ruined by a heavy shunt at the Swimming Pool Chicane.

Fernando Alonso, who has been open about his belief he can claim a first F1 win for 10 years this weekend, was a little over 0.2s off Verstappen's leading time for Aston Martin.

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Sky F1's Anthony Davidson and David Croft analyse a thrilling day of practice in Monaco where Red Bull's Max Verstappen topped the timesheets

Lando Norris offered a reminder of his special talent as he took advantage of McLaren's strong performance in slow corners to finish fifth.

That put him a place ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who appeared to settle more quickly in Mercedes' significantly upgraded W14 than team-mate George Russell, who could only manage 12th after finishing 16th earlier on Friday.

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Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who is also the Dutchman's nearest challenger at the top of the drivers' standings, failed to live up to the reputation he has earned for delivering at street circuits, as he finished seventh.

Verstappen responds with Red Bull under pressure

There had been lots of talk heading into the weekend about the unique nature of the Circuit de Monaco creating a chance for Red Bull's rivals to end the RB19's early-season domination, and such predictions looked to be accurate when Verstappen struggled in the opening session.

However, after some set-up changes during the 150 minutes between the sessions, the Dutchman was unsurprisingly right back into the mix.

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Ride onboard with Verstappen as he navigates the Monaco streets during FP2

While it was certainly an improved showing, the fact that Verstappen needed to complete an additional qualifying simulation - once the Ferraris had finished theirs - on an improving surface, was evidence that Red Bull are in a real battle to keep their 2023 winning streak going on Sunday.

"FP1 was quite tricky," Verstappen said. "I was not really happy with the ride of the car on the kerbs. FP2 was already a lot better, the car was a lot more competitive.

"Compared to Ferrari, we are still lacking on the general ride of the car - so how it handles the kerbs, the bumps, the drops in camber. So it's still something we need to work on for tomorrow.

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Verstappen says his Red Bull car struggled to handle the Monaco track during Friday practice

"They are very, very close and knowing once we all go to the limit in qualifying, we need a bit more to stay ahead of them."

Sainz had delivered one of his most impressive days of the season as he outperformed Leclerc for much of it, but was left disappointed after ending the session in the garage.

The Spaniard hit the barrier on entry to the Swimming Pool Chicane, breaking his suspension and consequently leaving him powerless to prevent his car from slamming into the barrier on the exit.

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Fernando Alonso rages twice at traffic during practice in Monaco

The question is now whether Sainz can regain sufficient confidence to deliver the "all-out" style his team-mate says will be required to top Verstappen on Saturday.

Meanwhile, having expressed quiet confidence in their ability to compete for victory in the build-up, Aston Martin appeared to be a step behind Verstappen and the Ferraris.

Alonso is seeking an elusive 33rd F1 victory, but will need to find more speed on Saturday if he is to improve on four podiums in the opening five races of the season.

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Martin Brundle is trackside to analyse how the drivers are taking on the Nouvelle Chicane at Circuit de Monaco

Hamilton 'enjoyed driving' updated Mercedes

Along with excitement around the possibility of Red Bull being challenged for victory, the other big mystery going into practice had been how Mercedes' heavily-updated car would perform.

All eyes had been on the Mercedes garage since the team began setting up on Thursday morning, with the Silver Arrows finally moving on from the 'zero-sidepod' concept they have pursued since the start of last season.

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Sky F1's Ted Kravitz explains how Mercedes have adapted their car and the potential impact of their upgrades at the Monaco Grand Prix

Photos of the new bodywork, which is accompanied by a new floor and front suspension, emerged on Thursday, but it was only once the cars hit the track on Friday that real assessments could begin to be made.

Hamilton, who had previously admitted he was "counting the days" until the upgrades became available, appeared to enjoy his new machinery and backed up a third-placed finish in the opening session with a respectable sixth.

"I've generally had an amazing day," Hamilton said. "I really enjoyed driving today.

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Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell said there were positive signs during Friday practice following recent car upgrades

"I want to say a big, big thank you to everyone back in the factory because to build and design and develop a car is not an easy thing and everyone has put so many hours of hard work to have us here today.

"I'm glad we were able to keep it on track for them and I think we got a lot of data. It's not the place to ultimately test an upgrade but the car was generally feeling good."

Russell struggled amid several set-up changes during first practice, and despite improving between sessions, ultimately ended 12th.

"We need to try and figure some stuff out overnight," Russell said. "There are definitely some positive signs to take from the session, definitely improved from FP1, it's never easy around this place."

Monaco GP Practice Two Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:12.462
2) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.065
3) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.107
4) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.220
5) Lando Norris McLaren +0.444
6) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.498
7) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.529
8) Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +0.588
9) Pierre Gasly Alpine +0.627
10) Esteban Ocon Alpine +0.700
11) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +0.723
12) George Russell Mercedes +0.729
13) Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +0.892
14) Kevin Magnussen Haas +0.995
15) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1.058
16) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1.179
17) Nyck de Vries Alpha Tauri +1.201
18) Oscar Piastri McLaren +1.211
19) Alex Albon Williams +1.755
29) Logan Sargeant Williams +1.776

The Formula 1 season continues with the Monaco GP this weekend. Watch qualifying at 3pm on Saturday with lights out at 2pm on Sunday. Get Sky Sports

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