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Lewis Hamilton toasted the signing of his new three-year deal with Mercedes by setting the pace in first free practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, ahead of a remarkable Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

A day after his multi-million pound contract extension was officially confirmed, the defending champion hit the ground running around the Principality, improving his benchmark throughout the 90mins session to an eventual 1min 18.750secs.

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Even so, Hamilton's efforts were arguably overshadowed by the man chasing him down in second place, with rookie Verstappen emerging as his surprise closest contender in the Toro Rosso. The first time he has ever experienced the demanding street circuit in any racing car, the Dutchman showed no signs of inexperience as he sprung to second place, just 0.149secs behind the Mercedes.

A strong session all-round for the Renault-powered machines at a venue that is set to prove less taxing for its down-on-speed engines, Verstappen was followed by Red Bull's Ricciardo in third place, while Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat ended the session fifth and seventh.

Between them, Sebastian Vettel led the Ferrari challenge in fourth position, three tenths off the top spot, while Pastor Maldonado's late improvement would see him jump to sixth fastest for Lotus.

A winner in Monaco for the last two seasons, Nico Rosberg's weekend got off to an inauspicious start in ninth, more than a second behind Hamilton, while Williams also had an understated FP1, Felipe Massa in 10th and Valtteri Bottas in 17th position.

Striving for their first points of the season this weekend, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button ended FP1 poised in 11th and 12th, though the latter spent the opening hour in the pit lane with technical issues.

Though largely dry, heavy overnight rain had made the circuit tricky in areas when the session started, with several drivers running on at turn one, including Ricciardo, Alonso and Bottas (twice), while even more missed apexes at turns 11 and 16. Despite this, all drivers avoided contact with the walls.

FP2 gets underway at 14.00 local time, though rain is forecast for the afternoon.