Max Verstappen edged Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to top the timesheet in Practice Two; Sainz ended what had been a strong day with a heavy crash; Lewis Hamilton sixth in upgraded Mercedes; watch Monaco GP qualifying live on Sky Sports F1 from 2:30pm on Saturday
Last Updated: 26/05/23 5:55pm
Max Verstappen recovered from a troubling start to the Monaco Grand Prix weekend to narrowly top Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in second practice.
Verstappen, whose Red Bull team have dominated the opening five races of the season, endured a frustrating opening session on Friday as he could only finish sixth amid struggles to get to grips with his RB19 around Formula 1’s most famous circuit.
However, a much-improved display from the world championship leader saw him produce a lap of 1:12.462 to finish six hundredths of a second clear of Leclerc, who will be seeking a third successive pole at his home circuit on Saturday.
Sainz had enjoyed a hugely-impressive day, topping Practice One and showing strong pace on hard tyres early in the later session, but his afternoon was ruined by a heavy shunt at the Swimming Pool Chicane.
Fernando Alonso, who has been open about his belief he can claim a first F1 win for 10 years this weekend, was a little over 0.2s off Verstappen’s leading time for Aston Martin.
Lando Norris offered a reminder of his special talent as he took advantage of McLaren’s strong performance in slow corners to finish fifth.
That put him a place ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who appeared to settle more quickly in Mercedes’ significantly upgraded W14 than team-mate George Russell, who could only manage 12th after finishing 16th earlier on Friday.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who is also the Dutchman’s nearest challenger at the top of the drivers’ standings, failed to live up to the reputation he has earned for delivering at street circuits, as he finished seventh.
Verstappen responds with Red Bull under pressure
There had been lots of talk heading into the weekend about the unique nature of the Circuit de Monaco creating a chance for Red Bull’s rivals to end the RB19’s early-season domination, and such predictions looked to be accurate when Verstappen struggled in the opening session.
However, after some set-up changes during the 150 minutes between the sessions, the Dutchman was unsurprisingly right back into the mix.
While it was certainly an improved showing, the fact that Verstappen needed to complete an additional qualifying simulation – once the Ferraris had finished theirs – on an improving surface, was evidence that Red Bull are in a real battle to keep their 2023 winning streak going on Sunday.
“FP1 was quite tricky,” Verstappen said. “I was not really happy with the ride of the car on the kerbs. FP2 was already a lot better, the car was a lot more competitive.
“Compared to Ferrari, we are still lacking on the general ride of the car – so how it handles the kerbs, the bumps, the drops in camber. So it’s still something we need to work on for tomorrow.
“They are very, very close and knowing once we all go to the limit in qualifying, we need a bit more to stay ahead of them.”
Sainz had delivered one of his most impressive days of the season as he outperformed Leclerc for much of it, but was left disappointed after ending the session in the garage.
The Spaniard hit the barrier on entry to the Swimming Pool Chicane, breaking his suspension and consequently leaving him powerless to prevent his car from slamming into the barrier on the exit.
The question is now whether Sainz can regain sufficient confidence to deliver the “all-out” style his team-mate says will be required to top Verstappen on Saturday.
Meanwhile, having expressed quiet confidence in their ability to compete for victory in the build-up, Aston Martin appeared to be a step behind Verstappen and the Ferraris.
Alonso is seeking an elusive 33rd F1 victory, but will need to find more speed on Saturday if he is to improve on four podiums in the opening five races of the season.
Monaco GP Practice Two Timesheet
|1) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:12.462|
|2) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.065|
|3) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.107|
|4) Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||+0.220|
|5) Lando Norris||McLaren||+0.444|
|6) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.498|
|7) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.529|
|8) Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||+0.588|
|9) Pierre Gasly||Alpine||+0.627|
|10) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+0.700|
|11) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+0.723|
|12) George Russell||Mercedes||+0.729|
|13) Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||+0.892|
|14) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+0.995|
|15) Nico Hulkenberg||Haas||+1.058|
|16) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1.179|
|17) Nyck de Vries||Alpha Tauri||+1.201|
|18) Oscar Piastri||McLaren||+1.211|
|19) Alex Albon||Williams||+1.755|
|29) Logan Sargeant||Williams||+1.776|