After a one-year hiatus in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, F1 is back to the principality of Monaco, around the twisty track of Monte Carlo. The 2021 season has seen a tight battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, and both teams were expected to lead the debates around the Monegasque circuit. However, certain voices were anticipating a strong performance from Ferrari as well.
For his return in what is practically a home race, Lewis Hamilton got a slow start in the first practice session, as he placed his W12 in fifth place. In the second session, he took the 3rd best spot, almost four tenths off the mark of the fastest Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, with Carlos Sainz intercalated between them with a tenth advantage over him. Nevertheless, the seven-times world champion felt satisfied to be back to race at the iconic venue.
"Generally it just feels really cool to be back on track," Hamilton said.
"It's rapid, this track, it's absolutely mesmerising, every time you get the opportunity to drive.”
“So yeah, I've generally enjoyed today. It's a challenge, naturally.”
Questioned about the two Ferraris’ pace throughout the day, he expressed his surprise, as he also rejoiced for the additional competition they will bring.
"I think the Ferraris are really strong, surprising to see them improve so much, but that's great. It means more competition."
The stevenage born asserted how pleased he was with the balance of his car, and predicted a close qualifying ahead of Saturday.
"I think the car is good, we've made some decent steps with the balance of the car," Hamilton said.”
"I'm generally really happy. I've got some changes I'll probably make this evening as we analyse today. It's going to be close [in qualifying]."
The two practice sessions were not as smooth for Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas who — after ending the FP2 in fifth place — lamented a lack of front end in his car setups.
"I'm lacking quite a bit of front end in the car on this track," Bottas said.
"We've had similar issues a little bit in some tracks in the mid-corner, but it's mainly slow-speed corners, and if you don't have the feel of the front, if it's going to turn in or not, you can lose quite a bit of time.”
The Finn also pointed at the stiffness and the upsetting response of the car on bumps and chambers as areas he and his engineers will have a look at.
"Also it feels like our car feels quite stiff, all the bumps and chambers in the corners, it's quite upsetting, so something to have a look at."