MONACO: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the pace in practice for his home Monaco Grand Prix on Friday while former winner Daniel Ricciardo crashed his McLaren in a nightmare start to the Australian’s weekend.

Leclerc led team-mate Carlos Sainz in a one-two in the second session, lapping the unforgiving street circuit with a fastest lap of one minute 12.656 seconds on a hot and sunny afternoon.

He was 0.044 quicker than the Spaniard, with the local favourite also fastest in a crash-free first practice with a time of 1:14.531.

Red Bull’s Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen was fourth in both sessions, with team mate Sergio Perez second and third.

Leclerc, 24, took pole position for the race last year but was unable to start due to a driveshaft problem, with Verstappen going on to win.

The Monegasque is six points behind Verstappen after retiring from last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix but hoping to take back the lead on Sunday and become the first driver from the principality to score points at home since Louis Chiron finished third in 1950.

Lando Norris was fifth in both sessions for McLaren, after resting this week to recover from tonsillitis.

Ricciardo, winner with Red Bull in 2018, failed to set a time in the second after crashing into the barriers at the Swimming Pool chicane and bringing out the red flags with 45 minutes remaining.

He was already under pressure after McLaren boss Zak Brown said the Australian, who won at Monza last year, was not generally meeting the team’s expectations.

George Russell was the fastest Mercedes driver in sixth place in the second session, with seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton 10th and 12th and testing a range of settings to tame his bouncing car.

“It’s so bouncy out here, man I am losing my mind,” said the Briton during the opening stint. “I need elbow pads in this cockpit it’s bouncing so much.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had warned earlier in the week that the seventh race of the 22-round season could be a tricky one for his team.

“Monaco hasn’t always been our happiest track, and slow-speed corners haven’t been our strength this season as we saw in Barcelona,” he said, referring to the previous race in Spain last weekend.

Mick Schumacher stopped his Haas on track with a gearbox problem in the first session but returned for the second as did Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, who failed to complete a lap earlier due to technical problems.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2022

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