MONACO (AP) — Charles Leclerc topped both of Friday’s practice sessions at the Monaco Grand Prix, where the Ferrari driver could use a victory on his home track to return to the top of the Formula One standings.
Ferrrari had a solid close to the day as Carlos Sainz Jr. was second-fastest behind teammate Leclerc.
Red Bull was right behind the Ferrari drivers as Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen were third and fourth fastest but lacked the one-lap speed of Ferrari.
Leclerc lost the F1 points lead last week in Spain. F1′s reigning champion Verstappen has won three consecutive races to knock Leclerc from the top of the standings. Leclerc won two of the first three races to build a 46-point lead in the standings, but Verstappen has four wins and now leads Leclerc by six points.
But Leclerc is motivated at Monaco; he’s never finished an F1 race on his hometown streets. He’s so comfortable with the circuit that he cycles to the track from his apartment, and although he won the pole last year, he never even started the race because of damage to his Ferrari.
Mercedes, meanwhile, had a disappointing pair of practice sessions with George Russell and seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. The duo both trail Ferrari and Red Bull in speed and the new Mercedes has struggled with what’s called “porpoising” – an aerodynamic issue where cars hop and bounce on the track.
Hamilton struggled in Friday’s second practice and was 12th on the speed chart, a whopping 1.61-seconds behind Leclerc.
The session was red-flagged for a few minutes because Daniel Ricciardo slid sideways into the crash barriers. The Australian driver’s damaged McLaren was lifted off the track by a crane.
There is one more Saturday practice session, followed by qualifying to set the field for Sunday’s race.
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