Hamilton sets pace in first practice

The Formula One season has been dominated by Mercedes so far with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg securing all five race victories between them and their duel for the world championship is set to continue at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.

Rosberg won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, in which Hamilton retired, but Hamilton took victory in the next four races to seize a three-point lead from his team-mate in the drivers’ championship.

The most recent win, at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, was another display of Mercedes dominance with Rosberg once more finishing second to Hamilton.

The battle between the pair now moves to the Monaco Grand Prix, set in the luxurious city of Monte Carlo.

It is one of the most spectacular dates on the Formula One calendar, with 78 laps to be raced on the 3.340-kilometre route which passes famous corners such as Casino, Rascasse, Sainte Devote and Tabac.

But despite the undoubted glamour of the location, it is a hard race for drivers. With an average speed of 158 kilometres per hour, it is the slowest of the year and overtaking is often difficult, verging on impossible.

This means a strong performance in qualifying is absolutely essential. Last year Rosberg secured pole position and went on to win the race - a repeat this year would see him regain the overall season lead.

Hamilton, however, recorded a best lap time of 1 minute 18.271 seconds around the 3.34-kilometre circuit in Monte Carlo, with Rosberg just 0.032 seconds behind in the first practice session on Thursday.

Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull was third, 0.235 seconds behind Hamilton, with his team-mate and current world champion Sebastian Vettel fifth.

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