Eye-popping day for Hamilton at bumpy Monaco as Leclerc cruises
MONACO (AP) — Lewis Hamilton can still race with his jewelry intact. The bigger problem for the Mercedes star Friday: The rough and tumble track at the Monaco Grand Prix.
“It feels like my eyeballs are coming out of their sockets,” Hamilton said after a pair of practice sessions around Monaco's downtown streets.
“There’s like 100 bumps on one straight. It’s the bumpiest roller-coaster ride ever.”
At least he got to drive.
Hamilton has been at odds with Formula One's governing body since the FIA ruled drivers cannot compete while wearing jewelry. The seven-time F1 champion has complained he has piercings that can only be surgically removed, so the FIA granted him a waiver that gave him until Monaco to remove all his studs.
But he arrived in Monaco with a nose piercing still visible, and the FIA has since extended the waiver through the end of June.
“It definitely is positive that we’re working with (the FIA) and I think they’re accommodating (us),” Hamilton said.
But the mood soon soured once practice began and the new Mercedes for 2022 bounced all over the circuit. The car has been troublesome since its debut and has experienced an aerodynamic issue called “porpoising” in which it hops around on the track.
“Man it’s so bouncy here, I’m losing my (expletive) mind,” Hamilton radioed the Mercedes camp. “Need elbow pads in this cockpit. Bouncing like mad.”
Hamilton has won three times at Monaco but this weekend is dealing with one of F1's crown jewel venues like never before.
“It’s just fighting the car, to put a lap together is ‘Wow, holy crap,’” he said. “I don’t remember experiencing it like that.”
The Mercedes duo of newcomer George Russell and Hamilton were eighth and 10th in Friday's first practice, while Russell was sixth and Hamilton 12th — and a whopping 1.61-seconds behind Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver led both practices.
Mercedes had arrived in Monaco full of hope following promising results last weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix, and after Friday's first practice, Russell remained optimistic.
“I think we’ve definitely turned a corner,” Russell said after first practice. “We can get cracking now and that’s pretty inspiring.”
Russell's tune had changed after second practice.
“The car’s just constantly smashing all over the floor. There’s sections where both tires are off the ground," Russell said. "At some points you’re almost doing a Wheelie.”
Mercedes has been working nonstop to get its new car up to speed and Hamilton is on the verge of stretching his winless streak to eight consecutive races dating to last season's finale. It would equal his longest drought with Mercedes, set between the end of the 2015 season and the start of 2016.
There was nothing new at the top of the speed chart on Friday with Ferrari and Red Bull once again dominating, but the Red Bull camp is settled following team orders that cost Sergio Perez a win in Barcelona.
Red Bull ordered Perez to surrender the lead to teammate Max Verstappen, who won his third consecutive race and fourth overall to take the F1 points lead from Leclerc. Perez found the call “unfair” but said Friday in Monaco the team had discussed the order.
“We spoke after the race. It’s all clear, and we all agree that we could have done a better job," Perez said. “We are on the same page and we move on. It’s a great atmosphere at Red Bull and we have great momentum."
Perez, who has already started talks with Red Bull on a contract extension, said he's received assurances that he will be permitted to race for wins.
“It’s very clear," he said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
The struggles continued for McLaren star Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian with the beaming smile and eight wins was once Verstappen's rival at Red Bull and even won at Monaco in 2018.
Ricciardo mangled his McLaren early in the second practice coming out of the swimming pool chicane. He crashed into the metal barriers to bring out the red flag and McLaren boss Zak Brown was watching it all on his cellphone during a news conference at the Indianapolis 500.
“I’ve spoken with Daniel about it, we’re not getting the results that we both hoped for," Brown said from Indianapolis. "We also need to continue to develop our race car. It’s not capable of winning races. But we’d like to see him further up the grid."
Ricciardo earlier Friday said the message had been delivered by McLaren.
“Well, it’s not false. It’s pretty true. Comments like that, I don’t take personally. My skin is tanned, beautiful, and also thick,” he said. "No one’s going to be harder on me than myself. I know that I don’t want to be racing around in 10th, 12th places.
“I still believe I can be at the front, and belong at the front. We’re working together hard at it. And the team wants it, I want it and we’re just working through it.”
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