Hamilton leads Mercedes 1-2 in first practice at Monaco

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, edging out teammate Nico Rosberg by just 0.032 seconds at the top of the timesheets.

The Briton’s time of 1:18.271 was good enough to give him P1 just ahead of his teammate, but Mercedes’ advantage was reduced as Red Bull ran the team close in third with Daniel Ricciardo, whilst Fernando Alonso finished in fourth place.

Hamilton’s practice session got off to a rather unconventional start, coming to the track ‘fashionably late’ by way of speedboat just as the green light went out. The majority of the drivers did arrive on time, though, and duly went about getting in their first few laps.

This session marked the first opportunity for the drivers to use the new cars around the streets of Monaco, and it soon showed as a number of them locked up under braking and had to be careful not to put it in the barriers.

Rosberg, having arrived on time, was the first driver to head out and post some lap times. He was followed by a suited-up Lewis Hamilton five minutes later, with Marcus Ericsson and Esteban Gutierrez also posting times early on. Hamilton soon got into his rhythm and matched Rosberg’s pace, but he too made a mistake and was lucky not to hit Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.

Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to dip below the 1:20s mark, and he temporarily displaced Mercedes from the top of the timesheets. However, less fortunate was Max Chilton, who spun his car at Mirabeau and was forced to leave it in the run-off area, bringing his session to an early end.

Mercedes soon resumed normal service as Hamilton and Rosberg moved up into first and second place, but Red Bull refused to lie down. Ricciardo continually posted times that were far closer to the Silver Arrows than we have seen so far this season, and only finished two-tenths down on Hamilton.

With 13 minutes to go, Adrian Sutil’s session came to an early end when he lost the rear of the car at Mirabeau, but his Sauber was recovered under double waved yellow flags. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez also hit trouble and had to park his car up at turn one.

Kevin Magnussen had a late scare when Sergio Perez ran slowly in front of him, but the Dane managed to avoid the Force India through La Rascasse. Fernando Alonso also had to think fast to avoid the wall at Mirabeau.

Come the end of the session, Mercedes finished first and second once again, but Red Bull’s strong showing suggests that this is by no means a foregone conclusion in Monaco.

F1 2017 driver review: Lewis Hamilton

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Following on from the driver reviews from the Verizon IndyCar Series, MotorSportsTalk kicks off its Formula 1 recaps by looking back on Lewis Hamilton’s championship year.

Lewis Hamilton

Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 44
Races: 20
Wins: 9
Podiums (excluding wins): 4
Pole Positions: 11
Fastest Laps: 7
Points: 363
Laps Led: 527
Championship Position: 1st

Lewis Hamilton may have wrapped up his fourth Formula 1 world title with two races to spare, but his margin of victory was far from representative of what was arguably his greatest championship victory yet.

Mercedes entered 2017 bidding to become the first team to defend its titles across a seismic regulation change, and appeared to be on the back foot early on after Ferrari impressed in pre-season testing and won the opening race through Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton was left wrestling with a “diva” of a car, as coined by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, but was able to get on top of it by the second race of the year in China, taking a dominant win in wet-dry conditions.

The win was representative of Hamilton’s form through the first portion of the season. When he won, he won in style – as in Spain, Canada and on home soil in Great Britain – but the off weekends saw him struggle.

Heading into the summer break, Vettel’s championship lead stood at 14 points, with the pair’s on-track rivalry having already spilled over in Baku when they made contact behind the safety car.

But Hamilton then produced the form that propelled him to titles in 2014 and 2015, breaking the back of the season through the final flyaways. As Vettel and Ferrari capitulated over the Asian rounds, picking up just 12 points when a full score of 75 for three wins was certainly in reach, Hamilton capitalised and put himself on the brink of the title.

While Hamilton’s run to P9 in Mexico was a messy way to wrap up his hardest-fought title to date, getting across the line and the job done was a significant result.

Unlike his last two titles, Hamilton was tasked with an enemy outside of the team in this title race and a car that arguably wasn’t the fastest on the grid.

But his unquestionable talent and ability to dig deep to get himself out of tough situations – Singapore and Brazil being two key examples where the result was far from expected – proved crucial once again.

Hamilton is now in the annals of F1 history as one of its all-time greats. The pole record is his, and only two drivers can boast more world titles than him (Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio).

Depending on how long he wants to continue racing, going down as F1’s statistical all-time great is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

Season High: Charging from the pit lane to P4 in Brazil, a race he could have even won.

Season Low: Dropping out in Q2 in Monaco, only recovering to P7 in the race.