• Hamilton fastest in Monaco practice
FASTER STUFF WAS COMING: Dutch Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen of Toro Rosso drives a soapbox car during a Red Bull Soapbox Race on May 16, 2015. On Thursday (May 21) he drove like a genius in Monaco. Image: AFP / Remko de Waal
• Rain limits afternoon track action
• Merhi crash brings out red flags
MONTE CARLO, Monaco – Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton was fastest but teenage rookie Max Verstappen stood out with an eye-catching practice drive on a rainy Thursday ahead of the 2015 Monaco GP.
Hamilton, fresh from signing a three-year deal with Mercedes, was quickest around the tight street circuit on a cool morning then lapped in a day's best of 1min17.192 before rain limited afternoon driving.
The championship leader, out to deny team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg a third win in a row in the Mediterranean principality, completed only 12 laps after lunch as the skies opened.
If Hamilton had been expected to set the pace, Verstappen's early showing was surprising and highly impressive. The 17-year-old, the only driver in the field never to have raced in Monaco, looked a natural as he lapped only 0.149sec slower in his Toro Rosso after completing 42 near-faultless laps in the morning.
The Dutch driver, son of former racer Jos, popped in his fastest lap just before the end when the track had most grip.
He was seventh-fastest in the afternoon in a session red-flagged after 14 minutes when Marussia's Robert Merhi lost control at the tunnel exit and smashed into metal barriers in the first incident of the weekend.
Steady rain then ensured all the drivers stayed in their garages as the TV cameras focused on seagulls, puddles and damp fans sheltering under umbrellas.
When the rain eased, with about 10 minutes remaining, most drivers ventured out but the leading times stood.
Rosberg, 20 points behind Hamilton after five of 19 races so far in 2015, was ninth fastest in a first session that started with drivers on intermediate tyres after a night storm swept the Riviera.
He was second in the afternoon, 0.740sec slower than Hamilton, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen third and fourth.
Rosberg brushed the barriers without consequences at Tabac in the morning and several others went down the escape road at the Ste Devote corner.
NOT GOOD FOR ALONSO
Australian Daniel Ricciardo ended that session third-fastest for Red Bull, ahead of Vettel and Toro Rosso's Spanish rookie Carlos Sainz.
Britain's Jenson Button sat out the first hour while McLaren mechanics worked on his car but eventually surfaced to set the 12th-best time.
Team mate Fernando Alonso was 11th.
Monaco 2014 first free practice times
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min18.750
2 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min18.899
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - Renault 1min19.086
4 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min19.134
5 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min19.245
6 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Mercedes 1min19.454
7 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull - Renault 1min19.520
8 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min19.679
9 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min19.762
10 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min19.766
11 Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1min19.791
12 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min20.202
13 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Mercedes 1min20.274
14 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1min20.619
15 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min20.784
16 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 1min20.857
17 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min20.917
18 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 1min21.219
19 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min23.234
20 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min23.404
Monaco 2014 second free practice times
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min17.192
2 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min17.932
3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min18.295
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min18.543
5 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull - Renault 1min18.548
6 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min18.659
7 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min18.782
8 Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1min18.906
9 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min19.151
10 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Mercedes 1min19.266
11 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1min19.300
12 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min19.560
13 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min19.566
14 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Mercedes 1min19.577
15 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min19.606
16 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - Renault 1min19.639
17 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 1min20.263
18 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min22.017
19 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min22.943
20 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari