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Lewis Hamilton says upgraded Mercedes has improved but 'a bit of a shame' not closer to front at Monaco GP

Mercedes debut long-awaited upgrades at Monaco GP; W14 has new sidepods, floor and front suspension; Lewis Hamilton third and sixth in Friday's practice sessions but still half a second off leading times; watch the Monaco GP on Sky Sports F1 this weekend

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

Lewis Hamilton says he could feel the improvements in Mercedes' upgraded W14 during Friday practice at the Monaco GP but conceded it was "a bit of a shame" not to be closer to the front.

Hamilton was third fastest in the opening practice session before finishing sixth in Practice Two, although the W14 remained half a second off the leading times set by Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen respectively in each session.

Mercedes debuted their long-awaited updates in Monte Carlo - featuring new sidepods, floor and front suspension - and while Hamilton felt there were positive signs, he is unsure if the Silver Arrows will be in the fight for pole on Saturday in Monaco's crucial qualifying session.

"I've generally had an amazing day. I really enjoyed driving today. It's not the place to ultimately test an upgrade but the car was generally feeling good," Hamilton said.

"A bit of a shame we weren't as close as I'd have hoped at the end of the session but definitely felt the improvements and we've just got to keep chipping away at it and see if we can squeeze any more juice out of the car.

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

"There is [one area where seeing most improvement] and it's very clear where the lack of performance is for me and so we'll talk about that in the debrief, put our heads together and try and figure out how we can do that within what we have and hopefully this gives us a platform to build on moving forwards.

"In P1 I thought maybe we were looking pretty good but we're always looking pretty good in P1 for some reason. In [the second session] we were close to half a second off and maybe that could have been three tenths but I don't think we have half a second in the bag. We'll see, we'll work on it and see if we can squeeze more out of it tonight."

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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

Russell: We need to find qualifying pace

George Russell had a more difficult day than Hamilton with Mercedes comparing set-ups across cars as they sought to find the right direction to go with.

Russell was only 15th in Practice One, 1.6 seconds off Sainz's best time, and then 12th in Practice Two, seven tenths off Verstappen's benchmark.

The 25-year-old feels there is a good base performance in the W14 but is envisioning another tricky Saturday around the streets of Monte Carlo.

"Qualifying is the most important part of the weekend and is a part of the weekend where we generally struggle, we always do better on a Sunday," Russell said.

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

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

"We know that the base performance of the car is good and we normally maybe overachieve on a Sunday and underachieve on Saturday so we need to try and flip those over this weekend. It's a matter of moments and sometimes a bit baked into the car so I'm not expecting tomorrow to be an easy day. We'll work hard and see what we can do.

"We hope we're with Aston and Ferrari - that's where we're aiming towards, obviously Red Bull are a little bit in a league of their own at the moment. The midfield is tight and we've seen a number of times this year that a McLaren or an Alpine or even a Haas jumps ahead of us on a Saturday but they're nowhere on a Sunday.

"If they do manage to do that this Saturday they will probably be with us this Sunday so we need to work on our qualifying pace for this event and re-assess the car globally next weekend."

Shovlin: No major problems

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the team had not suffered any big negative effects from their new parts and they already have a long list of further updates to bring in the future.

"We haven't seen major problems which is a useful start to it," Shovlin told Sky Sports F1 after the opening session.

"We're just playing with the normal set-up parameters here. You don't design a car for Monaco, you design it for your Silverstones and Barcelonas so the challenge is always how do you take that car designed for another circuit and get it to work around this slow, bumpy, very tight and twisty track.

"We're very much in the situation of looking at the car we've brought here and thinking 'oh we would have done that differently if we did it again'. If you start with a clean sheet it's a lot easier to optimise than if you're halfway through your development and have to make a pretty big change.

"The positive of that we have a big long list of things we'd like to do that we know will bring performance, but it was a really impressive job to what is now race six."

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

Ted: Mercedes upgrades are a 'compromise'

Analysis from Sky Sports F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz…

"My instant reaction is that it's a compromise - it's neither a Red Bull nor an Aston Martin, neither magical nor muggle.

"The biggest change has to be first of all the sidepods. The most visual change is to the sidepods. The 'no pods' are no more, the slim-down sidepods have gone. Instead, we have these chunky sidepods but the car is somewhat compromised by the fact they have to keep their side impact structure. While on the Red Bull, it's built into the sidepods, it has to stay on the Mercedes because that's where they had it with the 'no pods'.

"So we have the sidepods coming out which has necessitated quite a big change to the radiator layout inside that. And in the wind tunnel this has brought performance, these new sidepods even though they stick out more than the old ones have brought performance.

"But the sidepods are not where the performance is. The performance comes from the floor, the floor is new and that's where the downforce is generated. And to help keep the floor in the perfect attitude, they have redesigned the front suspension with a kind of Red Bull-inspired higher top wishbone and lower-leg rear wishbone to give some of the anti-dive properties that we've seen work so well on the RB19."

Lewis Hamilton drives the upgraded W14 in Monaco
Image: Lewis Hamilton drives the upgraded W14 in Monaco

Brundle: W14 has a touch of Frankenstein about it

Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle assesses Mercedes' upgraded W14…

"My concern is that it's a complete concept that a car is built around. That car is not going to win too many beauty parades - it's got a touch of Frankenstein about it. But if they cross the line first they all look beautiful.

"The team are saying this will enable them to have a new reference point and move forward from there instead of being halfway up a ladder that appears to be going nowhere as we saw in 2022 and so far in 2023. They're building another ladder that might enable them to climb higher.

"They had a chance through the winter (to change concept). They didn't want to give up on that (zero-sidepod) concept but finally, they've had to accept that it has limited upside the zero-pod design compared to everybody else. They probably should've done this in the close season.

"I don't think we'll know until we get to Barcelona next week, which is the toughest circuit in the world for a chassis and its aerodynamics, we'll find out there where Mercedes are at. They're not really saying we've sorted this - they're saying they've gone to a different place and we think it's a better place to start from to gain some speed and catch Red Bull."

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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