“Best day we’ve had on track” in 2024 — Hamilton and Russell pleased with the pace of W15 at F1 Monaco GP

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
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George Russell ended Friday’s second free practice session early, after struggling with his steering wheel throughout the session. Russell, who ended FP2 in tenth position, after an optimistic third-place finish in FP1, stated that the team decided to call the car in early to try to determine the cause of the severe shaking that he experienced while braking.

“I mean, as soon as I touched the brakes, the whole thing was shaking to bits, so I don’t know what was going on. I tried my best like holding it as hard as I could, like a gorilla that, like trying to hold on to it, [but] that thing kept shaking.

“So, you know, on a track like this where you need confidence to attack, it really set us back, and we just decided it was best to call it a day during the long run and try and analyse what was going on.”

Despite this shaking, Russell stated that he thought that W15 had performed well, referencing his P3 finish during the first practice session, and his teammate’s P2 finish in the second. He did, however, note the exceptional performance of Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc. Leclerc, who Russell described as being “well out in front” set the fastest time of the second session, 1:11.278, completing his lap 0.188 seconds quicker than Hamilton’s fastest lap of 1:11:466.

 “But generally, the car’s been performing really well today. You know, in FP1, we were P3, I think, and then Lewis P2 this afternoon. Clearly, [it’s] working well but erm… you know Charles is well out in front.”

When asked about his thoughts on the pace of the Mercedes and its implications for Saturday’s qualifying, Russell expressed that he was impressed with the car’s performance, stating that it had been one of the team’s “best Fridays” of 2024 and adding that there had been “lots of positives”.

“Well, we know how quickly everything changes so… But definitely today has been one of our best Fridays no doubt. The car’s feeling the best I’ve ever felt [it] around Monaco. So, lots of positives.”

Russell also acknowledged the rapid development within Formula 1, highlighting how much quicker the lap times set during this year’s practice sessions were compared to the times set during last year’s qualifying. Leclerc’s FP2 time was faster than Verstappen’s pole lap in 2023.

He expressed his expectation that lap records would be broken during the upcoming qualifying but noted that the weather could affect performance.

“Everyone’s developing so quickly at the moment, and we see how quick the lap times are today compared to last year. You know, we’re way, way quicker, potentially even breaking the lap records. Somebody will probably do that tomorrow… hopefully, that’ll be us!

“But now, it’s feeling good, and we’ll have to see what the weather does as well.”

When asked to predict his qualifying position, the Mercedes driver expressed much optimism, stating that he hoped to finish within the top 5. However, he did note that there could be changes and surprises on Saturday which could affect that.

“Ooh… I’m going to say top 5, I hope. I hope top 5, but, as I said, it changes so quick. You’ve got all these surprises. Who knows.”

Russell’s teammate, Lewis Hamilton, agreed with the younger Brit’s positive assessment of the Friday practice sessions. The seven-time world champion, who set the fastest lap time in the first practice session and finished P2 in the second, expressed that he had enjoyed driving the W15, adding that the Monaco track was “amazing”.

“It’s been a good day; definitely been the best day we’ve had on track. I think the car was feeling really positive, [I was] really enjoying driving it – this track is amazing.”

Hamilton added that the grip of the car had felt “quite good” but admitted that he had experienced some issues with the balance in his W15.

“The grip was feeling quite good. I think we still have some challenges with the balance, but it was looking strong.”

When asked about if he had been impressed by how quickly he had been able to become comfortable with the car, Hamilton, who won the 2008, 2016 and 2019 Monaco Grands Prix, indicated that it had not been a surprise, as he usually adapted quickly to the circuit.

“Yeah, I do that in Monaco, so it wasn’t a surprise.

He did, however, state that he had been surprised by the level of grip that he had experienced, and by how well that car had reacted and reiterated that he had been impressed by the car’s performance.

This performance, he claimed, had given him a more pleasant driving experience than he had had previously, particularly in the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

“But what was a surprise was the grip level and how the car was reacting here. [It was] definitely a more enjoyable ride than we’ve had here previously, the last two years particularly.”

Despite his positive statements about his and the team’s performance over the two sessions, Hamilton admitted that he did not know whether the team had improved in the second session, and that they would still need to do a lot of work to prepare for Sunday’s race.

“I think the second session, I don’t know whether we improved or not – definitely in the long runs, we still have a lot of work to do overnight to try and make sure that we can make it to the end of the race.”

From a qualifying perspective, however, Hamilton expressed confidence, admitting that it was important that the team did not lose the good pace that they had seen during the Friday practice sessions. He did reiterate, though, that improvements in both the long-run pace and tyre graining were needed.

“Yeah, absolutely. [We] can’t lose that, and we just need to improve in the long-run pace and the graining.”