Monaco GP: Dominant Lewis Hamilton secures practice double

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Monaco
Lewis Hamilton fastest in rain-hit second practice
Monaco Grand Prix
Venue: Circuit de Monaco-Monte Carlo Dates: 21-24 May
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Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was in a league of his own in a rain-hit second practice at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The world champion was 0.74 seconds faster than team-mate Nico Rosberg, who lagged behind Hamilton through both sessions on Thursday.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were third and fourth ahead of Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat.

Hamilton leads Rosberg by 20 points in the drivers' standings heading into the sixth round of the season.

The drivers managed only 20 minutes or so of dry running before Manor's Roberto Merhi lost control as he hit the brakes approaching the harbour-front chicane.

Roberto Merhi
Roberto Merhi is contesting his debut season

The car flicked one way and then the other, crashing into the barrier on the cliff side of the track nose-first and sliding to a halt in the run-off area at the chicane.

The session was red-flagged to clear the track, but rain began falling before it could be re-started. It became heavy enough at one point to soak the circuit.

However, many drivers did go out again in the final minutes of the session to get a feel for grip levels on the track in wet conditions. Most chose the intermediate tyres, although Rosberg and Force India's Sergio Perez ran the more heavily treaded 'extreme' wets.

The fastest time in the wet was set by Kvyat from Alonso.

Monaco's unique format
Monaco stands alone among grands prix, not least in its scheduling. This race is the only one that sees cars running on the Thursday, with no track action on the Friday. The action resumes with final practice on Saturday morning before qualifying at 13:00 BST.

In the brief period of dry running, Hamilton had continued the strong impression he left in the first session in the morning.

Hamilton, who made it clear in his BBC Sport column this week that he was determined to win in Monaco this weekend for the first time since 2008, was on 'full attack' mode from the moment he took to the track, while other drivers took their time to acclimatise to its unique demands.

He ended the first session a second clear of Rosberg, who was down in ninth place, and continued to have a clear distance between himself and his main rival.

Behind the two big teams, Red Bull look set for a more competitive weekend.

Kvyat's team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest in the morning session and said afterwards that he felt Red Bull might be able to challenge Ferrari to be second fastest behind Mercedes this weekend.

Toro Rosso have also been impressive - Max Verstappen was a stunning second fastest in first practice on his first ever experience of the Monaco track.

Max Verstappen steals show in Monaco first practice

In the afternoon, he continued to go well, but was pipped to sixth place by 0.123secs by team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Verstappen said: "It's been a good practice for me. I felt at home on the track. I like street circuits, so maybe that has something to do with it."

Sainz confirmed Toro Rosso were running relatively low fuel levels to allow both drivers to get a feel for the car on their Monaco F1 debuts.

McLaren, too, are looking in their best shape so far this season after Fernando Alonso took seventh and Jenson Button 15th, and the team are hopeful they might be able to score their first points of the year.

Andrew Benson on Monaco
Monaco: a wonderful anachronism of a race, in which 900bhp Grand Prix cars are wrestled around narrow hillside streets barely wide enough to cycle on.
F1 has its problems at the moment but, however jaded you are, there is nothing quite like the barely controlled violence, the sense of impossibility suspended, of the very best drivers at work there.
In the Pirelli era, the race itself has become a bit of a joke - cars trundling around nose to tail, seconds a lap under the limit, to ensure the super-soft tyres can last long enough to do the ideal one-stop race.
But as an event, still nothing quite matches Monaco.

Monaco practice results

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