Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a strong opening day during free practice in Monaco, and despite a starter motor issue and minor 'off', looks in good form to continue his winning streak around the Principality's narrow streets.

The British rookie - who has yet to lose in Monte Carlo in three outings in the F3 Euroseries and GP2 - lapped second-quickest to team-mate Fernando Alonso in the morning session, before slipping back marginally to third position at the end of the day. He completed a total of 33 laps to the Spaniard's 73.

"Today was the first time I ever drove a Formula 1 car around Monaco," the 22-year-old remarked, "and it was awesome! I have obviously had experience of the circuit from F3 and GP2, but in a Formula 1 car it's very different.

"I found out how unforgiving the track can be when I went off in the second session, causing some damage to the car. I'm obviously sorry as there will be a bit of work for the guys, but until then everything had been going smoothly and we were able to set some competitive lap times. I had a very small braking error coming into St. D?vote, and the tyres hadn't built up enough grip so I made a tiny mistake, the back of the car slipped a little and that was it - there is just no room for error in Monaco."

Team principal Ron Dennis was also in positive frame of mind at the end of the opening day's proceedings, and optimistic both Hamilton and Alonso would be capable of battling for the prime spot come qualifying.

"As always the Monaco Grand Prix presents some unique challenges for both drivers and teams," he explained, "and today's practice was no exception. Both our cars look competitive, and Fernando in particular was able to complete a lot of running.

"The problem with the starter motor in the first session and Lewis's off in the second practice cost him some time, but we have plenty of data to analyse to put both drivers in the best possible position to fight for pole position."

"Overall it was a good first day for us," concurred Mercedes-Benz Vice President Norbert Haug. "There was a little bad luck on Lewis's side when he was caught out in the first corner on a fresh set of tyres which obviously had not built up enough grip at this stage; however before that he was strong as was Fernando. On Saturday and Sunday our goal is to be as competitive as today."



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