Hamilton hails Mercedes car as 'fantastic'

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on a motorbike as he leaves the fan zone on Friday. Reuters

Lewis Hamilton has hailed his mourning Mercedes team and says the performances of the car itself are 'fantastic' ahead of qualifying on Saturday for Sunday's 77th Monaco Grand Prix.

The defending five-time world champion and his Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas were seven-tenths of a second clear of third-placed Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari after Thursday's opening sessions.

"I'm surprised," he said. "I don't know where all the time has come from -- I don't know if Max (Verstappen) maybe didn't get in a time or what, but the performance we have here is fantastic.

"We're constantly improving this car and understanding it and understanding the tyre. I guess that's why you're seeing the performance advantage we have."

A similar performance in Saturday's qualifying session would give the team a near-perfect opportunity to extend their triumphant season-opening run to six one-two finishes.

In the week of Niki Lauda's death Merecedes want to honour the memory of their late non-executive chairman with a notable win.

Hamilton added that, contrary to expectations, it was not always a pleasure to speed around Monte Carlo.

"Every year, it gets faster -- and it's that much faster you notice it when you're going past the barriers and touching them...

"But, honestly, I wouldn't say it's fun. It's incredibly intense. You have to be so focused, just the smallest mistake... When you look into Tabac, for example, the speed you're going towards that corner... and it's just a wall in front of you. Going up the hill to Casino it's the same thing.

 

Fundamental engine problem fixed

Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg can expect to be back on full power from Sunday after Renault fixed a fundamental engine problem that has slowed them in recent races.

"There will be another step from this weekend onwards, so basically we are back to the competitiveness level of the engine at the season start, which was really strong," Team principal Cyril Abiteboul said.

"In five weeks we managed to identify the problem...come up with a new design, source new parts, test the parts, sign off parts on complete cycles, and build new engines in enough quantity for ourselves and McLaren in time for Spain," said Abiteboul.

 

Calls to end Ferrari's rules veto

Leading Formula One team bosses joined in urging an end to Ferrari's traditional power of veto on any rule changes in the sport.

Christian Horner of Red Bull, Claire Williams of Williams, Zak Brown of McLaren and Cyril Abiteboul of Renault all supported suggestions that the veto, held by Ferrari for decades as a means to retain the famous Italian marque's involvement, was no longer an acceptable part of a modern global sport.

Horner said the veto was "outdated", adding "you can say 'ok, it's a safety net for them representing the teams', but, ultimately, they are representing Ferrari.

"So, probably, if we are going for a clean sheet of paper, it would make sense for it not to be there - and to have the same rules for everyone."

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