Carlos Sainz won the opening session of the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend, the Ferrari driver used his car’s pace in the middle sector of the circuit to beat Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
First practice ended prematurely with a few minutes left on the clock when Williams’ Alex Albon crashed into the away gates of Ste Devote and fetched the red flag.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez – last year’s winner in Monte Carlo – and Max Verstappen finished FP1 P4 and P6 respectively, with local hero Charles Leclerc finishing fifth.
Times to follow…
The cancellation of last week’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix means the teams are carrying out a number of upgrades this weekend in Monaco, with the new specification Mercedes W14 being the focus of many photographers in the pit lane.
But for McLaren, there was a cosmetic change to the team’s MCL60, which arrived on the track adorned with special Triple Crown livery to commemorate the manufacturer’s previous victories at Monaco, Indianapolis and Le Mans.
When the track turned green, the hard tires were the preferred choice for most of the field, although Ferrari and Lando Norris opted for medium tires early on.
Leclerc and Sainz were fastest in the early stages of the session, the pair overtaking Verstappen, who unluckily noticed his RB19 descending excessively around the track.
Leclerc became the first driver to drop below the 1m15s mark, but Sainz, Alonso and Verstappen followed suit.
As the track caved in, the lap times improved slightly. But at Williams, Logan Sargeant was seen limping out of the tunnel and back into the pits, with the FW45 suffering from an obvious drivetrain problem.
After a quiet start to the session, the Mercedes loaders picked up speed as the medium-booted Hamilton peaked and set a new benchmark time of 1:14.035 as the session reached the halfway point.
However, teammate George Russell complained about tire fitting difficulties and rear end shifting.
Meanwhile, Verstappen has reported feeling a bit more comfortable aboard his car after Red Bull tweaked the settings of the RB19 to knock its bottom out.
The track recorded its first accidental weekend when Nico Hulkenberg crashed into the inside barrier at the chicane which spun Haas and caused a rear left puncture.
The mishap raised a short red flag to allow marshals to pick up some of the small debris thrown from the German’s car.
Practice resumed with 20 minutes left on the clock and Alonso took the lead on the first lap under 1.13 seconds. The Spaniard thus pushed Hamilton into second while Perez moved up to third.
But Sainz quickly stole his compatriot’s thunder with a time of 1m13.690 that took the Ferrari driver to the top.
In an attempt to regain first place, Alonso stumbled upon the slow-moving Perez on the racing line at Casino Square, and the two-time world champion was not pleased with the Mexican’s antics and promising retaliation.
With just four minutes to go Alex Albon showed a second red flag – and a premature end to the session – when the Williams driver lost his rear end on the Ste Devote exit and tore off both left corners of his car.
Therefore, Sainz won the session, which bodes well for Ferrari, while Alonso and Hamilton close behind also showed good form.
Perez and Leclerc rounded out the top five, while Verstappen, Norris, Ocon, Stroll and Albon rounded out the top 10.
The second practice session on Friday will start at 17:00 CET.