Although the latest Pirelli rubber helped push him to the fastest time in FP1 on Thursday, Lewis Hamilton insists that there is very little to choose between the softest compounds on offer for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Times tumbled from the very start of the opening session, with Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg enjoying the benefits of an empty circuit as the evaluated the new 'ultrasoft' compound introduced for the first time in competition this weekend. Hamilton eventually topped the times with a lap in the mid 1m 15s, but remained relatively unimpressed with the new rubber.
“To be honest, they're pretty much supersofts with purple paint!” he explained, “It's the supersoft painted purple - it's exactly the same. They're very similar to be honest. Generally, the tyres don't feel great. Whether or not it's the tyres not feeling great or whether they're actually up in temperature or over temperature or whatever it may be, they're very, very strange, they can switch on or off.”
Hamilton had to settle for second place in the afternoon session, after Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo produced the only lap of the day in the 1m 14s, going six-tenths faster than the world champion.
“Honestly, I didn't even know it was six-tenths,” Hamilton admitted, “I've not really been looking at that as I've been focusing on getting the set-up right. There's a little bit of time left in my lap.
“Tyre-wise, these tyres are pretty solid but, even if it looks like you're able to warm them up, sometimes you can't get enough heat in, so we're trying to figure out whether we're maximising the grip potential of the tyres.”
Despite the margin to Ricciardo, Hamilton had the edge on team-mate Rosberg, who has won the Monaco race for the past three years, but insists that he is just enjoying being back at one of his favourite circuits.
“I don't know what [the gap] is saying,” he said, “You can take whatever you want from it, but for sure I felt good in the car this morning. I'm super-blessed to be here and racing in F1.
“Generally, when you close your visor, you're just in the zone but, for sure, when you get out on this track, it's like going to toy cars - it's like everything's smaller, the track's smaller, narrow, there's no run-off area and it's so fast. You kind of feel like, in your mind, you enter a different zone. It's just amazing. It's the best feeling out there. I know what I can do and, if the car stays together, I should be able to do it.”
After a tough start to 2016, Hamilton trails his team-mate by 43 points after five rounds, but remains phlegmatic about his chances of success.
“I wake up every morning ready, but there's a plan,” he explained, “God has a plan and you just have to follow his path and hope it comes out the way you want it to - but it doesn't always happen that way. I'm just grateful to be here, it's beautiful weather, there's only 22 of us get to race, I'm at the front of the 22 so I've been super blessed. During this period of time, I just really count my blessings.”