Lewis Hamilton says he is encouraged by Mercedes’ showing during Monaco Grand Prix practice and is confident his Formula 1 team can avoid a repeat of its 2017 struggles.

Mercedes was bracing itself for another tricky weekend in Monte Carlo with team boss Toto Wolff admitting he was “bloody worried” about the Silver Arrows’ prospects following its poor performance at the circuit last year, as neither car finished on the Monaco podium. 

But Hamilton was Red Bull’s closest challenger in opening practice - finishing 0.3s down on Thursday pacesetter Daniel Ricciardo - and although he dropped further back in FP2, the championship leader is confident his team is in a better position compared to 2017. 

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“It's been an OK day,” Hamilton said. “We didn't suffer any damage which is a good thing. I said yesterday the Red Bulls were going to be quick which they were today. As expected, we struggled a little bit more. 

“The car felt good in some places, in others it felt bad. So we have got some things to work on, but we're not completely in the dark; we're in a much better place than we were last year. 

“We're closer to Red Bull and Ferrari than I expected, but we're still a few tenths off. So we've got some ground to cover and pick up if we want to be in the fight for the win.”

Hamilton believes Mercedes can still extract more potential from its W09 car with some set-up tweaks and admitted Pirelli’s Hypersoft tyre had suffered more degradation than expected in Monaco. 

“We've got to keep working on the set-up and try and see if we can pull out some more potential from the car. The Hypersoft felt good, but it doesn't last very long. It looks good for qualifying but could be interesting in the race.”

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