Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was fastest in FP2 at Monaco
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was fastest in FP2 at Monaco Image Credit: AFP

Formula One is back in Monaco and Ferrari are back at the top of the timesheets.

The Scuderia’s one-two in FP2 on Thursday, and their improvement since Spain, surprised world championship leader Lewis Hamilton, though the Briton said he was delighted to welcome more competition to the sharp end of the grid.

Hamilton, a Monaco resident and three-time winner of the race, clearly enjoyed his return to this revered street circuit, finishing fifth in FP1 and third in FP2 — a session in which he was eclipsed by some familiar rivals in red, as Ferrari topped the latter session with Charles Leclerc ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz.

The reigning champion said afterwards he was keeping an eye on Ferrari’s pace, but began by expressing his adoration for Monaco.

“Everyone loves to drive here. Great day, I mean weather’s been great, 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 I generally enjoyed today. It’s a challenge, naturally — Ferraris look really strong — surprising to see them improve so much but that’s great. It means more competition.”

Asked whether Ferrari are genuine contenders to crash the Mercedes-Red Bull party everyone is expecting in the Principality, Hamilton replied: “My guess is: I’m seeing what you’re seeing. I’m generally just focused on my job. It looks like it, so we’ll see.

“Ferrari particularly have in the past for whatever reason been very quick at getting temperatures in, same as Red Bull so we’ve got some work to do.”