MERCEDES ON PACE: Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time during the first practice session at the 2016 Monaco GP. Image: AP / Claude Paris
Monaco - Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time Thursday in an eventful first practice session of the Monaco Grand Prix, a race he has not won since 2008.Hamilton is chasing a third straight title and fourth overall but trails Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg by 43 points.
The pair swapped the lead in a competitive P1 on the new ultra soft tire compound, but Hamilton finished it 0.0101 seconds quicker than Rosberg, who was second fastest and picked up a late puncture after running over a loose drain cover.
The cover clipped the McLaren of Jenson Button, heavily damaging the front wing and halting the session with three minutes left.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was third quickest 0.00419 behind Hamilton, who has gone eight races without a win since sealing the championship at the United States GP with three races to spare.
Meanwhile, the Williams team watched in frustration as veteran driver Felipe Massa lost control turning up the hill at Sainte Devote and slammed into the barriers, damaging the left side of his car, which was taken off the track by a crane.
The virtual safety car came out briefly again when British driver Jolyon Palmer's Renault hit a wall, sending some debris onto the track.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was fourth best ahead of new teammate Max Verstappen, the 18-year-old Dutchman who made history at the Spanish GP two weeks ago when he became the youngest to win an F1 race.