Lewis topped a busy opening session on Thursday, racking up 40 laps and clocking a 1:13.425s to go fastest of all, 0.196s clear of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari in P2.
But Lewis could not replicate his pace from the morning into the second session, ending the day in eighth, over a second adrift of Vettel’s pacesetting Ferrari.
“We didn’t have the greatest day today,” said Lewis. “Practice one was actually really good and we were quickest, but then in second practice we just struggled to extract the grip from the tyres and we were sliding around a lot.
“I’m not sure why the tyres weren’t working but the difference between the two sessions was night and day. We’ve got some work to do ahead of Saturday that’s for sure but I’m confident the team can work it out.
“Monaco is always amazing to drive, but this is definitely the best car I’ve driven around here. Ferrari are very quick again and Red Bull are also looking good this weekend. We’re looking forward to a real fight on Saturday.”
Valtteri traded fastest times with Lewis in the morning, ending the session in P3, just behind Vettel. But like Lewis, the Finn had a tougher afternoon, managing just 10th on the leaderboard.
“Practice two was difficult and we struggled with the pace over one lap,” said the Finn. “We made some changes between practice one and practice two but we clearly went in the wrong direction – that’s why both of us were struggling.
“When the car isn’t quite right you lose a lot of time in Monaco. We tried to go back with the set-up and it felt better but by that point we’d already put a lot of laps into the tyres. At least we’ve learned what not to do with the set-up here.
“It’s a shame but we have a full day tomorrow to analyse everything and come back stronger on Saturday. It will be close again at the top I’m sure.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Technical Director James Allison expects the team to bounce back on Saturday in time for qualifying.
“After a very positive morning session with both cars and drivers, the afternoon proved more difficult and we clearly took a step in the wrong direction with the car set-up over the break,” said James.
“We will have a good think about it tomorrow in order to put things right for Saturday. But I think we can be encouraged by the pace and consistency that we were able to demonstrate in FP1.”
The Silver Arrows will be back on track on Saturday… We’ll be making the most of Friday, hitting up the best spots that from Valtteri and Lewis’ driver tour guide! They are Monaco locals after all.
Monaco… It’s cliché, but there’s really no place quite like it. If you’re an F1 fan, then you will have heard all about the glitz and the glamour of Monte Carlo, where the streets are paved with gold and pounded by the world’s rich and famous. But seriously, it’s true, all of it. Well, except the bit apart the gold paving…
Fresh off the high of Barcelona and a relaxed weekend back home, we packed up and headed for Monaco on Tuesday morning to catch up with the rest of the team – some of them have been here since last Thursday! Nestled down on the French Riviera, it’s just one quick flight to Nice and then a short ride to get into Monte Carlo. Once you break light through the tunnel connecting Monaco to the rest of France you’re greeted by a one in a million view of the tiny Principality.
If the Formula One paddock is still a bit of a mess on a usual weekend, then Tuesday in Monaco is something else entirely. Forklifts skim through the paddock, motorhome roofs are still going on, and the pitlane is full of shiny Mercedes trucks as the team finish unpacking. While this organised F1 chaos all goes on, the Monte Carlos streets are open, so keep an eye out for supercars as well!
Considering that the Italian border is just a few kilometres away, there’s no excuse but to try out some Italian grub on the Tuesday night – once the motorhome roof is on, of course. With the first two free practice sessions shifted to a Thursday in Monaco, everything kicks off properly on Wednesday with Media Day as the drivers face the international press.
You’ve got to be mentally strong to get through the pressure cooker that is Monaco, but our boys are ice cool, so they ease their way through interviews and signing sessions and Lewis even brought his bike along for some burnout fun. All in all, it’s a well-natured day, as the atmosphere and excitement builds up ahead of Thursday and the first look at the new 2017 beasts on track.
We genuinely can’t wait. As that great philosopher and World Champion Jenson Button one famously said “Monaco baby, yeah!”
As a resident, what do you make of this race weekend?
“I’ve been here for three and a half years now, so I know the place very well. It’s quite special to be able to go home and to make your own breakfast – stuff like that. It’s a unique place – especially on the race weekend. It’s full of glamour, which I really don’t focus on. It’s a demanding week and you need to be fully focused for racing. But it’s a good place to be. I’m sure all the fans are going to be enjoying drinking champagne on the boats and watching the race”
So… what do you have for breakfast?
“Normally I have some fruit – berries – and sometimes some porridge. Sometimes eggs… sometimes Irish coffee…”
What about dinner? Where do you go to eat in Monaco?
“There’s obviously plenty of nice restaurants. I do have my places here – quiet ones, some fancy ones as well. But I actually cook a lot. We travel so much that we’re always eating in restaurants, so I enjoy being at home and cooking. I’m planning on doing that this week as well.”
What’s on the menu?
“It sounds very boring. But salads, vegetables, chicken… yeah, pretty boring but good for you! I can cook that for anyone – even for you, if you want!”
Does the novelty of driving in Monaco ever wear off?
“It doesn’t – definitely not. It’s pretty incredible coming here every year and thinking there’s only a few of us that get to drive around here. It’s kinda neat that I live here so I get to see the place quite often – but the novelty never wears off. I run round the circuit, sometimes I drive my car or ride my motorbike round the circuit… and every time I’m like: “I can’t believe that we’re going to be driving at 200 mph around here. There’s only 20 of us that get to do it the way we do it in Formula One, so it’s cool. I’m excited, as I am every year. We could have this race every weekend and it would be pretty awesome.”
Will it be a bigger challenge this year with the 2017 cars?
“It’s difficult to say it’s a greater challenge – it’s a challenge every year. We’ve got harder tyres, for example, so there’s getting the tyres to work. I won’t know until I get in the car tomorrow. But when you arrive you have to expect the biggest challenge of your life because every year it is. The weather is up and down, there’s tyre usage and setup… basically, anything can happen. You have to be on your toes and ready to react to whatever comes.”
How would you define your relationship with this track?
“I’ve not won here many times. With the pace I’ve had over the years, it’s always proven to be the most… not the Achilles heel… but the unicorn of races. That one that just always gets away from you. There’s definitely been, I would say, at least two – maybe three – that I should have had but other things came into play. But I’m grateful for the ones I’ve had. Not many people can say they have a Monaco Grand Prix win under their belt. And especially the way those two wins came about in 2008 and 2016. Sometimes quantity isn’t everything. Those were real quality races that I really earned, so I’m proud of those ones. But, of course, I want to have more…”