Lewis Hamilton oozed all the authority and skill of a champion on Thursday as he marked the confirmation of his new three-year contract with Mercedes by dominating both opening practice sessions for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Briton, who was beaten into second place by teammate Nico Rosberg at the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, delivered a consummate performance in wet conditions on the unforgiving streets of the Mediterranean principality.
It was a perfect riposte to Rosberg’s revival and confirmed Hamilton’s intention to win Sunday’s classic 78-laps race and wreck his German rival’s bid for a rare hat-trick of successive victories on his home town road track.
“You need to get on the pace quickly and find the time and be very specific with any changes you make,” said Hamilton.
“The simulations can help sometimes, but here today the balance was not far off so for me it was just a case of tweaking it here and there.
“The first session was really good and this one was good, too… So, so far; so good… I happy with the balance.”
The afternoon session was interrupted by a heavy rain shower and a red flag following an accident when Spaniard Roberto Merhi lost control of his Manor Marussia car at the exit of the tunnel. He hit the barriers, but was unhurt.
Hamilton did one lap after the rain, in wet conditions, and said: “I think that the only thing I learned was that the white lines, which are painted black now, are slipperier than ever! This black paint is more slippery than the white… Other than that, you know, this is the hardest track to drive in the wet.”
Rosberg was second fastest at the end of the day by more than seven-tenths of a second ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
Russian Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull was fifth but his Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished the day down in 16th after clocking the third best time in the morning.
Rosberg, 29, who is 20 points behind Hamilton in the title race, survived a ‘moment’ during the morning’s opening session when he brushed the barriers at Tabac. The incident ruined that lap and caused him to return to the pits, but left his car with no serious damage.
“The good thing is that the car is definitely very quick so that’s good. There is more to come from me, for sure,” Rosberg said.
Hamilton clocked a best lap of one minute and 17.192 seconds before the rainstorm that curtailed afternoon action until the final 10 minutes.
Talented young Spaniard Carlos Sainz in a Toro Rosso was sixth.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen continued his extraordinary impact this season by taking seventh in the second Toro Rosso car ahead of a much-improved performance from two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the troublesome McLaren-Honda.