Vettel is top dog in Monaco while Hamilton battles 'diva' problem
Ferrari deny employing team orders after German driver wins in Monaco as Mercedes struggle with their car
Lewis Hamilton may have wished he had joined Fernando Alonso in Indianapolis after a dire Monaco Grand Prix in which the Mercedes driver finished seventh in a race won by his championship rival Sebastian Vettel.
And there was also controversy as the vexed issue of team orders raised its head after Ferrari appeared to favour Vettel over his colleague Kimi Raikkonen during the race.
Raikkonen began on pole position but was brought into the pits earlier than Vettel, which allowed the German to take the lead and hold onto it for the rest of the race.
Although Ferrari were adamant the result had not been orchestrated, victory leaves Vettel 25 points clear of Hamilton in what promises to be a tight contest for the drivers' title this season.
"While Raikkonen was very disappointed with the result, Vettel denied that the strategy was part of any plan from Ferrari to switch the order of its cars to benefit his title hopes, but Hamilton suggested otherwise," reports the Daily Telegraph.
"It's clear to me that Ferrari have chosen their number one driver, so they're going to be pushing everything to make sure Sebastian will get the maximum on all of his weekends," bemoaned Hamilton afterwards.
Team orders are not banned in F1 but remain a controversial topic.
"A win for Raikkonen would have been his first since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix," says Andrew Benson of the BBC. "But it would have reduced by seven points Vettel's tally, and in a season as close as this against a rival as formidable as Hamilton and Mercedes, it would be hard to give that up. Mercedes, after all, have already ordered Bottas out of Hamilton's way in Bahrain this season and employed him strategically against Vettel in Spain."
In the eyes of many, the race proved that not only do Ferrari "have a car that is easy to work with and that is fast on every type of circuit, but [also] underlined their commitment to Vettel as their leader."
If Mercedes are to recover the lost ground they'll have to deal with their "diva", says Giles Richards of The Guardian. And that is not Hamilton – but rather his car.
"Mercedes have built an extremely demanding mistress in their new car and need to find ways to ensure she is happy if they are to take the fight to Ferrari," he says.
The problem appears to be the car's tyre temperatures and performance, he explains.
"We have a fast car but she doesn't like the tyres and that is something we need to understand," admitted team boss Toto Wolff. "It seems to be a bit of a diva."
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button struggle for pace in Monaco
Two British F1 world champions struggled in practice ahead of this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, but the emotions were very different for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button as they prepare for Sunday's race.
Hamilton, the favourite to win the title, is already locked in a thrilling battle with Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and cannot afford to slip up on his favourite track. However, he will have been unnerved by the way his Mercedes car underperformed in the second practice session on Thursday.
Button, meanwhile, struggled to get used to life back in the cockpit after making a one-off return for McLaren to fill in for Fernando Alonso, who is chasing glory in the Indy500.
Hamilton's travails were more of a surprise than Button's.
"Buoyed by his win at the last round in Spain, having come back after an indifferent weekend in Russia when he could not find the right set-up for his car, Hamilton had been optimistic that Mercedes had moved further forward and were well-prepared for Monaco," says Giles Richards of The Guardian.
The morning went well, but "the afternoon proved to be a different story", adds Richards.
"Making the best of the new 2017-spec cars, Vettel put in the fastest ever lap of the street circuit, 1min 12.720sec, and was over four-tenths clear of the second-placed car, Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull.
"Hamilton could manage only eighth place and was over a second back from Vettel."
With qualifying crucial in Monaco because of the difficulty in overtaking on the street circuit, Mercedes "will be grateful for the Monaco tradition of having Friday off, giving them much-needed time to fix their issues ahead of qualifying on Saturday and race day on Sunday", says Rebecca Clancy of The Times.
As for Button, he ended the day 12th fastest and almost up to speed with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.
He admitted it had been a struggle, but that should come as no surprise. "Button turned his last F1 laps in Abu Dhabi last November, starting practice in Monaco without having driven one of the new-specification 2017 cars," says the Daily Telegraph.
"A test in a Rallycross car and a start in the Race of Champions event, both in the USA and in January, are the extent of Button's 2017 mileage."