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Hamilton hails ‘best day on track’ for Mercedes in Monaco as Russell explains why he had to drive ‘like a gorilla’ in FP2

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MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell sounded a positive note about Mercedes’ prospects after a solid day for the team during Friday’s running at the Monaco Grand Prix, with the squad ending both practice sessions with at least one car in the top three.

After a quiet race last time out at Imola, Hamilton set the pace in FP1 around the streets of Monte Carlo, while Russell was one tenth back in P3. Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets in the second hour, but Hamilton slotted into P2 on a track where he has previously enjoyed three victories.

FP2: Home hero Leclerc sets the pace during busy second practice in Monaco from Hamilton and Alonso

In what has been a challenging season so far for the Silver Arrows, Hamilton was left feeling encouraged by the performance of the W15 during Friday’s running, though he also acknowledged that there remains work to be done.

“It’s been a good day, definitely been the best day we’ve had on track,” the seven-time world champion reflected after FP2. “I think the car was feeling really positive, [I was] really enjoying driving it – this track is amazing.

“The grip was feeling quite good. I think we still have some challenges with the balance, but it was looking strong.”

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Hamilton has won the Monaco Grand Prix on three occasions

Asked if he was impressed by how quickly he had been able to gain confidence in the car – having appeared to not be pushing too hard out on track – Hamilton responded: “I do that in Monaco, so it wasn’t a surprise!

“But what was a surprise was the grip level and how the car was reacting here. [It was] definitely a more enjoyable ride than we’ve had here previously, the last two years particularly.

FP1: Hamilton leads Piastri and Russell during interrupted opening practice in Monaco

“I think the second session, I don’t know whether we improved or not – definitely in the long runs, we still have a lot of work to do overnight to try and make sure that we can make it to the end of the race.”

Pushed further on whether things look positive from a qualifying perspective ahead of Saturday’s all-important session, the Briton conceded: “Yeah, absolutely. [We] can’t lose that, and we just need to improve in the long-run pace and the graining.”

Russell did not have quite such a smooth hour in second practice, having experienced an issue with vibrations through his steering wheel. While he ended the hour in P10 on the timesheets, the 26-year-old praised the car’s overall performance during Friday.

“As soon as I touched the brakes, the whole [steering wheel] was shaking to bits, so I don’t know what was going on,” he commented on the problem he encountered in FP2. “I tried my best, holding it as hard as I could, like a gorilla!

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG

Russell felt positive about Mercedes' performance on Friday in Monaco, despite experiencing an issue with his steering wheel

“On a track like this where you need confidence to attack, that really set us back and we just decided it was best to call it a day during the long run, and try and analyse what was going on.

“But, generally, the car’s been performing really well today. In FP1 we were P3, I think, and then Lewis P2 this afternoon. Clearly working well, but Charles is well out in front.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from a busy first practice session in Monte Carlo as Zhou hits the wall

In terms of how this pace could match up to the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull in qualifying, Russell cautioned that the picture can evolve rapidly.

“We know how quickly everything changes, but definitely today’s been one of our best Fridays, no doubt,” said the Mercedes driver. “The car’s feeling the best I’ve ever felt around Monaco, so lots of positives.

“Everybody’s developing so quickly at the moment, and you see how quick the lap times are today compared to last year – we’re way, way quicker, potentially even breaking the lap records. Somebody will probably do [that] tomorrow, hopefully it will be us! But it’s feeling good, and we’ll have to see what the weather does as well.”

And when quizzed on the possible grid position that the Silver Arrows could be looking at, Russell responded: “I’m going to say top five. I hope top five but, as I said, it changes so quick. You’ve got all these surprises… Who knows?”

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