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Mosley steals Hamilton's thunder

Lewis Hamilton registered the fastest time on the clocks here yesterday, but it was what was not visible that generated the greatest interest.

They sought him here, they sought him there, those Monégasques sought him everywhere. Where was that elusive FIA president? Accompanied by his burly Welsh minder, the embattled Max Mosley strutted down the pit lane on his first public F1 outing since the sex scandal that rocked him in March. He looked without a care in the world.

Perhaps he does have, perhaps he doesn't. Rather like Friday practice lap times, perceptions do not always mean much. The jury remains firmly out on whether Mosley is on the verge of war with his longtime ally, commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone. A carefully leaked letter from Mosley to the various FIA club presidents, pleading his case to stay in office until October 2009, took an oblique swipe at Ecclestone's commercial stewardship of the sport. That was followed by a pledge from Ecclestone to send a letter of his own to the same people, countering some of Mosley's suggestions.

"I think the general assembly of the FIA was called for one reason only," Ecclestone said in reference to the 3 June vote that will decide whether Mosley stays in power, "to decide whether or not they think Max is the right person to be their president. It's nothing to do with anything else and I don't quite know why he's come out and said these things... I don't want a war with Max. I hope he doesn't want one with me."

The atmosphere here is tense, but not for Hamilton. "I simply love Monaco and enjoy every single moment I get to spend on the track," he said. "The car felt great almost immediately and I was able to show a good pace from the very beginning. As the circuit evolved throughout both practice sessions we made some good progress with both the set-up and tyre evaluation."