Lewis Hamilton is uncertain whether he will be able to challenge championship rival Sebastian Vettel for pole position in Monaco.
Hamilton, pictured, who is six points adrift of Vettel ahead of Sunday’s blue- riband race, roared to the top of the order in the opening practice session in the principality.
But as Vettel, and indeed the rest of the field, improved during yesterday’s second running, Britain’s triple world champion and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas slid down the field.
Hamilton was only eighth in the reckoning, more than one second adrift of Vettel, while Bottas was even further back in 10th.
Championship leader Vettel ended a dominant session nearly half a second clear of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo by recording the fastest lap ever seen in these parts.
Hamilton is one pole position shy of matching Ayrton Senna’s haul of 65 – 30 years after the Brazilian claimed his first of a record six victories at Monaco – but on yesterday’s evidence at least, he faces a tall order to emulate his childhood hero this weekend.
“I have no idea whether we will be on the pace for qualifying,” Hamilton, 32, said. “I can’t explain it because I don’t understand it. We didn’t have the greatest day.
“Practice one was actually really good and we were the quickest, but then in second practice we just struggled to extract the grip from the tyres and we were sliding around a lot.
“I’m not sure why the tyres weren’t working, but the difference between the two sessions was night and day, black and white. We’ve got some work to do ahead of Saturday, that’s for sure.”
Hamilton’s former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button was back behind the wheel of a Formula One car for the first time this season yesterday.
The 2009 world champion called time on his grand prix career last season, but has been drafted back in by McLaren for a one-off appearance following Fernando Alonso’s exploits at the Indianapolis 500.
Button finished the day a respectable 12th, four hundredths of a second slower than Stoffel Vandoorne in the sister car.
Canadian rookie Lance Stroll, meanwhile, crashed into the wall on his first grand prix appearance at Monaco. Only his pride and Williams car were damaged in the incident.
Jolyon Palmer’s poor season took another sorry twist when his Renault engine expired early in the second session.