Lewis Hamilton finished only 12th in second practice for the Monaco Grand Prix as home favourite Charles Leclerc completed an impressive practice double.
The Ferrari man is now favourite to take the all-important pole position at Formula One’s showpiece event.
Leclerc edged out Carlos Sainz by just 0.044 seconds in the other scarlet car, with the Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and championship leader Max Verstappen third and fourth respectively.
Hamilton’s revival at Barcelona a week ago could be short-lived following a troubling day in which he was jolted in his bouncing Mercedes.
Monte Carlo’s narrow and twisty streets represent a unique challenge and it does not appear to be one that suits the Silver Arrows. Hamilton was 1.6 seconds adrift of Leclerc.
Earlier in the day, Hamilton had complained about the porpoising in his restless machine.
First, the 37-year-old said: “It is so bouncy out here, mate. I am f****** losing my mind.”
He later added: “I need elbow pads in this cockpit because it is bouncing so much.”
Mercedes felt they had resolved the majority of the porpoising issues which have so far plagued their season, so Hamilton’s frustrations will be a major cause for concern as they bid to get their campaign back on track.
“It is the bumpiest the track has ever been and possibly the bumpiest track I have ever driven,” said Hamilton.
“Our car bounces a lot. It is different bouncing to what we have experienced in the past, it is at low speed and the bumps on the track make it worse.
“I am fighting the car and putting a lap together is like holy crap. I don’t remember experiencing anything like that before.
“When you do try to put a lap together, the grip doesn’t feel terrible, it is just my eyeballs are coming out of their sockets.
“We have work to do overnight to fix that and – as anticipated – we are not as quick as the Ferraris and Red Bulls. Our challenge is to stay ahead of McLaren.
“I really hope for a better day tomorrow. It feels like the car has the potential to be up there but there are all these things that are hindering us at the moment – but we will not stop fighting.”
Adding salt to Hamilton’s wounds, George Russell finished sixth, 0.750 sec behind Leclerc and nearly a second up on his more illustrious team-mate.
Speaking in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports, Hamilton’s one-time team-mate and rival Nico Rosberg said: “This weekend, Lewis has been having a hard time out there.
“We know the Mercedes is difficult to drive but George has stuck with it and found that flow. He is making incredible progress and is in the fight with Lando for best of the rest after Ferrari and Red Bull.
“Lewis has just lost his way, so it is going to be very tough for him to come back and find that rhythm with only a couple of laps left in practice tomorrow. It is a big setback for him.”
Daniel Ricciardo’s motley McLaren career took another turn for the worse at the Swimming Pool chicane.
The Australian lost control and smashed into the wall before making his way back to the paddock by foot as marshals removed his wounded car and busily brushed away the debris.
Ricciardo’s team-mate Lando Norris was withdrawn from his media commitments on Friday as he battles tonsillitis.
The 22-year-old has been unwell since last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, admitting he is struggling to sleep. But Norris made light of his illness to finish the day in fifth position, six tenths off the pace.
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