Carlos Sainz topped the first practice session for the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton chasing.
Sainz was one of the few drivers to put together a clean lap around the street circuit, something teammate Charles Leclerc failed to do, making an error on his final attempt at a fast lap, that is before Alex Albon brought the session to an abrupt end when he crashed at Turn 1.
Max Verstappen never looked to be in sync with his RB19, as he complained throughout the session about the bouncing all over the place, while Lewis Hamilton seemed to be happy with his upgraded Mercedes going third fastest, behind Fernando Alonso in second.
It would be soon to make a judgment on the pecking order this weekend, as there could be more to come from Leclerc, Verstappen, and even Alonso who fell prey to traffic several times while on hot laps.
One thing for sure though, Ferrari and Aston Martin will be pushing Red Bull hard, while Mercedes remained a bit of an unknown.
Buildup towards FP1
After the unexpected weekend off Formula 1 had, due to the unfortunate events and torrid weather that hit Emilia Romagna, the sport is back in action this weekend at Monaco.
And there is much to look forward to as we start our sixth round of the 2023 season, with Mercedes finally unveiling their heavily upgraded W14 that carries the hopes of both team and drivers looking to return to their winning ways, after losing their way since the start of the current aero regulations in 2022.
It might not be ideal to launch an upgraded car at Monaco, but we should get an idea whether Mercedes are on the mend, and with Barcelona up next, we won’t have to wait much longer for the full answers, as the Circuit de Catalunya is the best gauge of an F1 car.
With Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari both putting the rumours of their potential collaboration to bed, Mercedes now has to deliver the car the seven-time champion needs to add an eighth title.
As for other points to look out for, Fernando Alonso believes circuits like Monaco can boost his chances of winning a 33rd F1 race, and chances are the Aston Martin AMR23 will be quite nimble around the principality, but it will be close, with Red Bull as always favourites, regardless of how they play down their chances, and Ferrari definitely in the mix with local hero Charles Leclerc looking to use his lightning-quick qualifying pace to stick it on pole, and keep his fingers crossed for a decent clean race on Sunday.
So much to look for and Monaco never disappoints.
Monaco FP1 session highlights
So Mercedes will have their B-Spec W14 running for the first time in Monaco, the car featuring new sidepods and sidepod inlets, new floor fences, a new front suspension layout, a new rear wing, and new rear brake winglets.
Ferrari, who planned major updates to their car for Emilia Romagna, decided to delay them to the next round in Barcelona, while Aston Martin have brought some upgrades to their AMR23 for Monaco. Mainly, a revised suspension front and rear, optimized cooling and downforce to suit the street circuit, while also having a revised track specific rear wing.
Aston Martin split the upgrade package planned for Emilia Romagna between Monaco and Barcelona.
Pirelli brought their softest three tyre compounds to Monaco, Hard (C3), Medium (C4), and Soft (C5).
Party time is over in Monaco – #F1 is hitting the track today! 🇲🇨
A few minutes into the session, Max Verstappen reported that his RB19 was bottoming a lot, as Charles Leclerc was out on track, and set the fastest lap time on his first run. The Dutchman also complained about his clutch earlier while exiting the garage.
All twenty drivers set out on the Hard tyres, except for the two Ferrari drivers, and McLaren’s Lando Norris who were on Mediums.
Verstappen was not happy with his RB19 setup, over 15 minutes into the session, and insisted on boxing before he crashes.
“Ah mate, I want to box. I’m going to shunt with the car set-up like this!” he radioed his team.
Worth noting, the traffic on the track, which makes it a challenge for some drivers to put in clean lap, one of the reasons why qualifying around Monaco is never straight forward, not to mention the scrapes that the drivers have with the walls, as they find the limits around the track.
With 25 minutes out of the way, Williams’ Logan Sargeant reports a loss of power on his FW45, and slowly limped back to the pits without causing any interruption to the session.
At the same time, George Russell reports that he is not happy with his brakes. He said: “Brakes don’t feel like they’re decelerating very well.”
Verstappen, was back on track midway through the session, after the team did some setup changes on his RB19, but he still didn’t seem to be happy with the changes.
“Yeah it’s a little bit better on the rear but yeah it’s still doing all the same things on the bumps. It’s really not good,” he reported.
With 24 minutes remaining, Nico Hulkenberg brought out the yellow flags, as he got a puncture going into the chicane after the tunnel. he got back to the pits but the session was soon Red flagged briefly to clear some debris caused by the German’s incident.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Hulkenberg has had a moment down at the Nouvelle Chicane
Carlos Sainz went fastest around Monaco with a lap time of 1:13.372 set on the medium tyres, and was 0.338s faster than Fernando Alonso in second.
Lewis Hamilton put his upgraded Mercedes W14 to good use, and was third fastest, but still 0.663s off the pace. His teammate George Russell struggled through and was down in 15th, one second off the pace of the seven-time F1 Champion.
Sergio Perez was the faster Red Bull car, fourth fastest with a 1:14.0.38, and 0.003s slower than Hamilton.
Charles Leclerc showed some handy pace around his home town, but couldn’t put a clean lap together. He ended the session fifth fastest, 0.721s slower than his teammate.
Max Verstappen was sixth fastest, complaining all session long about the bottoming of his RB19, that didn’t improve much after a setup change. He was 0.872s away from first place and not happy.
Lando Norris was seventh fastest in the McLaren, albeit over one second off the pace, with Esteban Ocon 0.118s behind him in eighth.
Lance Stroll was ninth fastest in the other Aston Martin with a 1:14.653, while Alex Albon made it into the top ten, tenth fastest despite his session ending crash. He was 1.294s down from the benchmark.