Mercedes AMG Motorsport duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were the class of the Formula 1 field in Free Practice 2 for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s time of a 1:11.188 was 0.081 seconds better than Bottas’s best efforts, both drivers setting their times on the soft compound tyres – despite showing promising pace on the mediums.
Sebastian Vettel had to settle for third as Scuderia Ferrari cracked the top three for the first time in the weekend, 0.763s adrift of Hamilton’s session best.
A trio of Red Bull-sponsored cars trailed the lead Ferrari closely in positions fourth to sixth, Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Alexander Albon splitting the Red Bull Racing cars of Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen.
Verstappen’s running was scythed down by a suspected water leak that caused a hive of activity in his pit garage and resulted in a significant loss of track time.
Albon was the initial pacesetter in the opening stages of the session, trading time at the top of the table with Vettel, before Mercedes opened its account on the medium tyres through Bottas – who set about lowering the benchmark into the 1 minute 11 seconds mark.
While the Finn was unsuccessful in his attempt, team-mate Hamilton – who had welcomed Juventus‘s Cristiano Ronaldo and son into the paddock pre-afternoon session – had no trouble in finding his rhythm on the yellow-marked tyres.
A third of the way into the session, Vettel emerged as a possible challenger to Mercedes with a 1:11.881 on a clean lap with the soft tyres.
His advantage was quickly taken away by Bottas returning to the top by around 0.3s, then increasing the pace by a further two tenths on his next fast lap.
Championship leader Hamilton struggled to match Bottas in the final sector, but more than made up for the deficit in the the first two-thirds of the 3.337km track.
Despite a slight problem with his front left tyre, Hamilton set an insurmountable lap as the clock ticked towards the hour mark.
Behind him, Vettel was fortuitous to avoid a collision with the barriers after a lock-up at St. Devote – the four-time world champion just one of a plethora of drivers that needed to lean on the escape road.
In the race simulations, Mercedes looked to be in a field of its own with an average lap time of 1m 14.8s compared to the various low-to-mid 1m 15s from the chasing pack.
Kevin Magnussen was the second-fastest Ferrari powered car on Thursday afternoon for the Haas F1 Team, its communication errors from the morning session amended.
Alfa Romeo Racing enjoyed a return to form with Antonio Giovinazzi just ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen, roughly 1.2s away from the ultimate pace.
Home hero Charles Leclerc rounded out the the top ten in a lacklustre session, reporting a number of issues with car balance under braking and intrusive traffic on his fast laps.
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