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Marcus Ericsson

Monaco Diary: Even Marcus Ericsson is worth watching

Marcus Ericsson

Say what you will about the Circuit de Monaco’s dearth of wheel-to-wheel racing, the frantically serpentine on-boards it provides can make even Thursday practice exciting.

With only centimetres the difference between triumph and disaster, there really isn’t another circuit that provides the same top-to-bottom exhilaration – hell, even Marcus Ericsson is worth watching.

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As Sebastian Vettel noted in his Wednesday interview, Monaco is a circuit that demands the utmost confidence from a driver, in both themselves and the car.

Perhaps more than in previous years, it seems the whole field had that almost immediately, the new regs providing if not five-second faster lap times (yet), at least the grip for drivers to absolutely chuck their cars into the corners.

That said, it wouldn’t be Monaco if there weren’t a few hairy moments, and today was no different. Ocon, Ericsson, Button, Raikkonen, Perez and Vettel all had their dalliances with the Armco, although it was the one man who won’t earn the fans’ forgiveness who got the worst of the circuit’s unforgiving nature, with Lance Stroll ending his session early after going into the wall at Casino Square. Let’s hope he’s got a shrink on standby.

Moving from the young to the old, all eyes were naturally on the one-off return of 2009 world champion and hair gel enthusiast Jenson Button to the grid, and based on his early running, well… let’s just say it’s a good thing he didn’t have to travel far.

Try as he might, the MCL32 remains less than competitive, even with the lack of emphasis on power around the principality. On the bright side, seven months since he last stepped in a race car (and a very different one at that), Button managed to finish just 0.035 of a second off teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in FP2 – mighty impressive, especially given he hasn’t read the manual.

Also his “pass” on Lewis Hamilton down into the Nouvelle chicane might be the highlight of McLaren’s season. Never change, JB.

Elsewhere the talk of Thursday had to be the performances of Red Bull, both senior and junior. All four cars finished in the top six, with Daniel Ricciardo splitting the Ferraris in the top three, and Daniil Kvyat looking like a first-team driver after holding off both Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.

With Mercedes struggling to setup the car, it might be down to the bulls to stop Ferrari from securing their first Monaco pole since 2008 – although with Vettel nearly half a second clear at the top, you wouldn’t bet on it.