Monaco practice inspires Hamilton

By Alan Baldwin

MONACO (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton had the glimmer of hope in his eyes on Thursday after reviving memories of last year's glory in Monaco Grand Prix practice.

The 24-year-old, who won in the Mediterranean principality last year but has struggled with an under-performing McLaren in the first five races of 2009, was third fastest in the morning session and second in the afternoon.

Hamilton's best time of one minute 15.445 seconds after lunch was the day's second fastest, beaten only by Williams's Nico Rosberg in 1:15.243, and McLaren were constantly among the leaders.

"It's definitely exciting to be back again," Hamilton told reporters. "We didn't really know what to expect, but after this morning and afternoon we genuinely do have quite good pace.

"I've really enjoyed today. It's reminded me of how much I love the sport, how much I love the driving. It's really driving, kind of back-to-your roots street racing. It's fantastic."

The 23-year-old Rosberg, son of former champion Keke, has now been quickest in nine of the 17 practice sessions so far this year while failing to translate that promise into anything higher than sixth place on race day.


"The word 'showboating' perhaps (comes to mind)," Frank Williams told a news conference later. "A bit too much of that probably. Formula One always finds out the truth pretty quickly.

"If you are quick, the race will tell you you're quick. in practice you can fool people, including yourself."

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, still chasing his first win since 2004, put his championship-leading Brawn GP team mate Jenson Button in the shade with the fastest time of 1:17.189 in the morning and third-best lap after lunch.

Barrichello, who celebrates his 37th birthday in the Mediterranean principality on Saturday, lags behind Button by 14 points in the standings.

Button, who is chasing his fifth win in six starts, was eighth and fourth on the timesheets respectively.

Although Thursday times mean little, particularly in Monaco with cars jostling for space in tight confines, Barrichello will be boosted after the disappointment of losing out to Button in the previous Spanish Grand Prix that was his for the taking.

Struggling champions Ferrari also enjoyed a revival in their fortunes with Brazilian Felipe Massa, who has been on the podium in Monaco for the past two years but has only scored three points so far this season, in the top five in both sessions.

"From what we've seen today, our car seems to be quick and consistent in performance terms," said Massa.

BMW-Sauber failed to impress, with Robert Kubica suffering a fiery engine failure as he accelerated up the hill from Sainte Devote in the afternoon that shrouded the track in smoke.

"Today was extremely disappointing," said the Pole. "We clearly lack outright performance and, due to the engine failure in the second session, I had far too little track time. There is nothing to add."

Red Bull's German Sebastian Vettel, the only driver other than Button to win a race this year, also suffered an engine failure in the opening practice.

(Editing by Clare Fallon and Alison Wildey)

Article Published: 22/05/2009