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BC-CAR--F1-Monaco GP,2nd Ld-Writethru

May 23, 2019

MONACO (AP) — Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time Thursday in the first two practices for the Monaco Grand Prix.

In the afternoon’s second session, he was .081 seconds faster than his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and .763 clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The only blip for Hamilton, the championship leader, was a fine of 400 euros ($446) for exceeding the pit lane speed limit of 60 kph (37 mph).

In the first session, he was .059 seconds quicker than Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on the sinewy 3.3-kilometer (2-mile) street circuit. Bottas was third quickest in that outing and finished .072 behind Hamilton, who is chasing a sixth world title.

Ferrari had looked off the pace in first practice with Charles Leclerc fourth ahead of Vettel, and they were both fined for pit lane speeding.

Mercedes has been dominant so far this season, placing 1-2 in all five races and with Bottas second in the championship standings. Verstappen is third overall, with Vettel fourth and Leclerc fifth.

Ferrari is under pressure to get a win in Monaco. The Italian manufacturer has not won a race since Kimi Raikkonen, who is now with Sauber, took the checkered flag at the United States GP last October. Vettel has not won in 13 races since victory at the Belgian GP on Aug. 26.

Monaco is the only race on the F1 calendar where practice starts on Thursday instead of on Friday, when there is no racing held at the Principality. The third and final practice and qualifying take place on Saturday.

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