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Leclerc leads surprise Ferrari 1-2 in Monaco GP practice

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Monte Carlo, May 20 (IANS) Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were the unlikely names atop the timesheets in practice for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix as Ferrari found pace which has so far been missing this season.

Monaco native Leclerc posted a quickest 1 minute 11.684 seconds around the 3.337 km circuit on his home streets in the second session having barely ran in the first due to an engine problem, DPA reported.

Sainz was 11 hundredths of a second behind while in the battle of the title contenders Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes third, fractionally ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

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Formula One was returning to the Principality after the 2020 race was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year Monaco has limited attendance to 7,500 people per day with stands filled to up to 40 per cent of capacity.

Verstappen is in desperate need of a second season victory as he trails Hamilton, who has three wins, by 14 points.

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But the surprise performance of Ferrari hints the big two may not have things all their own way, especially as the tight nature of the street circuit eliminates a lot of the mechanical advantage held by the top teams.

Valtteri Bottas was fifth in the second Mercedes and Lando Norris sixth after signing a new long-term deal for McLaren this week.

The session halted slightly early under red flags after Mick Schumacher bumped his Haas approaching Casino.

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Friday, as usual, is free in Monaco before final practice and Saturday’s crucial qualifying session.

With overtaking incredibly difficult on the circuit, whoever clinches pole position is strong favourite to go on and claim the race victory.

–IANS

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