MONTE CARLO, Monaco – Though they struggled to keep pace for the early portion of the Formula One season, Ferrari’s “Prancing Horses” came out in force during the opening day of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday.
Led by home hero Charles Leclerc, the pair of Scuderia red cars commanded the overall speed charts, ending the day as the only two cars to dip into the one minute, 11 second bracket around the picturesque, 19-turn street circuit with several impressive laps in the last practice of the day.
In fact, nine of the top 10 times from Thursday were set during FP2.
Leclerc’s best time around the 2.074-mile course was 1:11.684, edging teammate Carlos Sainz by .112 seconds in the final rundown. It’s the first time Ferrari has been atop the time sheets this season.
For the Monégasque driver, Thursday marked a special moment, being able to lead a practice day at his native race.
“It’s very meaningful, but we know there’s still a long way to go,” tipped Leclerc.
Ferrari’s pace was a surprise to the two leading F-1 championship contenders, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The duo finished third and fourth, respectively, in single-lap pace on Thursday.
“I’m surprised how competitive Ferrari is,” said Verstappen, who was nearly four tenths off Leclerc’s best lap. “I think it just shows that we are pretty weak. They are doing very well and we are very weak, so then the offset is very big.”
“The Ferraris are really strong,” added Hamilton. “It’s surprising to see them improve so much, but it’s great – it means more competition.”
The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was fifth on the day, trailed by the McLaren of Lando Norris, who inked a contract extension with the Woking-based team Wednesday ahead of the race weekend.
Sergio Perez slotted in seventh quickest, the only driver among the top 10 whose best time Thursday came from FP1, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel eighth through 10th, respectively.
Second practice was halted a few minutes short of its scheduled conclusion when Mick Schumacher crashed his Haas F1 car at Massenet.
Qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix will begin at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, with live coverage on ESPN2.