Carlos Sainz led FP1 at the 2023 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, while Max Verstappen finished sixth amid complaints about his Red Bull’s handling.
Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas set the initial pace with a 1:26.993, but that was quickly improved by a series of faster times from Zhou Guanyu, Fernando Alonso, Hamilton and Lando Norris, as the benchmark for first place at the end of the race race was 10 seconds lower. opening five minutes of the hour-long session.
Alonso and Norris switched positions up front, with the latter and the two Ferrari drivers being the only runners to use the medium tires during the early laps, with everyone else using the hards as they gained confidence on each tour and benefited from laying made of F1 rubber. on the tight, winding city track.
Just after the five-minute mark, Charles Leclerc’s second-flyer sent him to the top with a 1.15.931 seconds ahead of Sainz, who had rammed the barrier in the second part of the pool but escaped without damage a few minutes earlier aboard his Ferrari, and then broke through at a 1m15.198s.
Leclerc then moved back to the front in 1m15.037s after a short drive to the Ferrari garage, while his team-mate continued to pound around undisturbed.
Leclerc’s next flier lowered the benchmark to 1.14.562 seconds before Sainz finished the session opening 20 minutes faster with a time of 1.14.401.
At this stage, Alonso finished third with Verstappen fourth and failed to match the Ferrari drivers’ high early lap total after pitting ahead of them to change the set-up, having complained that his early set- up caused so much rock bottom that he feared he was going to “shunt”.
After a brief lull in action, more drivers came forward to use the mediums for the first time, which Hamilton used to put down a 1m14.035s and get ahead of the Ferrari pair at the head of the time.
Verstappen also used the mediums to gain time, but after two fliers he was still not ahead of Sainz’s previous benchmark, reporting that Red Bull’s adjustments and his drive had not improved and felt it was “still doing the same thing on the bumps – it’s really not good”.
He was told he would probably have to live with the problem until more substantial changes could be made ahead of FP2, while George Russell complained that he couldn’t get his tires to work properly on his updated Mercedes W14, leaving his rear tires too flat. many slipped – the Briton languishing outside the top 10 heading into the final 25 minutes.
Just as Alonso moved up to second just 0.064 seconds behind Hamilton’s leading time on the mediums, the session was halted after Nico Hülkenberg had an incident at the tunnel exit chicane.
The Haas driver, who was at the back of the standings, clipped the inner barrier of the first part of the complex at the foot of the hill leading to Monaco harbour, sending his left rear tire off the rim and sending him spinning. as he passed through the middle part of the complex.
Although Hulkenberg was able to escape and slowly toured back to the pits, the session was red-flagged for three minutes as the debris of the incident was recovered.
FP1 resumed with 20 minutes remaining, with Alonso moving into first place with a 1m13.907s on his first flyer after the resumption, just after Perez had moved up to third and headed Sainz’s early lead times on the mediums.
The Ferrari drivers had finally reappeared a few minutes before the red flag, still on the medium tires but untroubled by time as they had in the early stages.
That changed when Sainz moved back into first place with a time of 1:13.690, ahead of Alonso by 0.058 seconds heading into the final 10 minutes.
Alonso then narrowed the gap to 0.020s just after becoming enraged by running into Perez running slowly on the race line through Casino Square, before Sainz’s next flier took him to 0.338s as he registered a 1m13.372s.
There were no further improvements when Alex Albon then crashed hard at St Devote and again brought out the red flags – the Williams driver lost his rear halfway through the first right corner and then smashed his front and rear left-hand wheels into the impediments.
With just over three minutes left on the clock, the session did not resume, with Albon reporting he was fine and just “cracked my knees” in the impact.
The top three were followed by Perez and Leclerc, who had come off a personal best lap just before the red flag after a chicane lock-up and then lost the rear of his Ferrari during the second part of the pool.
Verstappen finished sixth after also having a big sliding moment in that spot on the late run – the world champion gestured angrily as he slowly revved away and through the final corners of the track.
Norris finished seventh ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll, who climbed late in the rankings and was another driver to climb through the walls – the Aston driver did this in the closing corners after taking an oversteer snap on the throttle when he to the pit straight during the middle part of FP1.
Albon rounded out the top 10, holding his position thanks to his shunt, with the other Williams driver, Logan Sargeant, coming down in 18th and having to slowly rev back to the pits at the halfway point with a problem in the rear of his car.
In the other Mercedes, Russell finished 15th.