Hamilton quickest in Monaco

McLaren star top after opening day's practice

Lewis Hamilton demonstrated McLaren Mercedes' improved form of late by setting the quickest time in Thursday's practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix.

After finishing second behind World Champion Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday morning, the Briton controlled the afternoon session and set a best time of one minute 15.140 seconds around the 2.075-mile track.

Hamilton was almost four-tenths-of-a-second ahead of the second quickest driver, Williams' Nico Rosberg, with Ferrari driver Raikkonen leading team-mate Felipe Massa in third and fourth places respectively.

Although Hamilton won the season-opener in Australia for McLaren, rivals Ferrari have since stolen a march in the Constructors' Championship, with Raikkonen and Massa each winning two of the four subsequent races.


However, McLaren showed improved pace last time out in Turkey - Hamilton following home Massa in second place - and the team also scored a one-two finish in last year's Monaco GP.

Hamilton's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen was fifth quickest on Thursday afternoon with a time of 1:15.881s, ahead of BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica and Renault's Fernando Alonso.

The latter may have won the race in 2006 and 2007 but nevertheless came to grief in session two when he swiped the barrier at the Sainte Devote corner and lost his rear wing.

Meanwhile, Alonso's rookie team-mate Nelson Piquet suffered a similar mishap at the same corner on his way to setting the 15th best time of the afternoon.

Jenson Button was eighth quickest in the afternoon, ahead of Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, with the Briton's Honda team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, completing the top 10.

After a small fire on his car prevented him from setting a representative time during the morning session, Red Bull's David Coulthard went 14th quickest in the afternoon, his time almost two seconds down on Hamilton's best.

Friday is an off-day with drivers returning on Saturday morning for a final practice session ahead of qualifying for Sunday's race.

Monaco Grand Prix, Thursday practice, session two:

01 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:15.140 40 laps
02 N. Rosberg Williams 1:15.533 39 laps
03 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:15.572 42 laps
04 F. Massa Ferrari 1:15.869 37 laps
05 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:15.881 39 laps
06 R. Kubica BMW 1:16.296 34 laps
07 F. Alonso Renault 1:16.310 27 laps
08 J. Button Honda 1:16.351 45 laps
09 K. Nakajima Williams 1:16.372 40 laps
10 R. Barrichello Honda 1:16.418 32 laps
11 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:16.426 44 laps
12 T. Glock Toyota 1:16.688 46 laps
13 M. Webber Red Bull 1:17.094 39 laps
14 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:17.131 39 laps
15 N. Piquet Jr. Renault 1:17.246 35 laps
16 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:17.251 33 laps
17 J. Trulli Toyota 1:17.379 28 laps
18 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.581 38 laps
19 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:18.176 31 laps
20 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:18.225 38 laps