Carlos Sainz topped FP1 at the 2023 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, while Max Verstappen finished sixth amid complaints about the handling of his Red Bull.
Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas set the initial pace with a 1m26.993s, but that was quickly improved by a string of faster times from Zhou Guanyu, Fernando Alonso, Hamilton and Lando Norris as the benchmark for first place was lower by 10s at the end of the five minute opening of the one hour session.
Alonso and Norris swapped positions up front, with the latter and the two Ferrari drivers being the only riders to use the medium tires for the opening laps while everyone else used the hard ones as they gained confidence with each lap. and benefited from the fitting of F1 rubber. on the narrow, winding city track.
Just after the five-minute mark, Charles Leclerc’s second steal sent him into the lead with a 1m15.931s past Sainz, who had hit the barrier inside the second part of the pool but escaped without too bad a few minutes earlier in his Ferrari, then had taken the lead. on a 1m15.198s.
Leclerc then returned to the lead with a 1m15.037s after a brief spell at the Ferrari garage while his teammate continued to pound without interruption.
Leclerc’s next driver lowered the benchmark to 1m14.562s before Sainz finished the session opener 20 minutes quicker in a 1m14.401s, which he then beat with a 1m14.245s before heading to the pits with most of the peloton.
At this point, Alonso was trailing in third with Verstappen fourth and not matching the Ferrari drivers’ high early lap total after stopping in front of them to make set-up changes after complaining that his early set-up was causing so much trouble. hollow he feared. he was “going to shunt”.
After a brief lull in the action, more drivers emerged to use the mediums for the first time, which Hamilton used to post a 1m14.035s and edge ahead of the Ferrari pair in the lead time.
Verstappen also used the mids to save time, but after two flyers he still hadn’t surpassed Sainz’s previous benchmark as he reported that Red Bull’s adjustments had not improved his ride and felt he ” always did 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 before FP2, while George Russell complained he couldn’t get his tires to work properly on his Mercedes W14 updated, letting its rears slip too much – the Briton languished outside the top 10 heading into the final 25 minutes.
Just as Alonso moved up to second just 0.064 seconds off Hamilton’s time on the mediums, the session was halted after Nico Hulkenberg had a chicane incident at the exit of the tunnel.
The Haas rider, sitting towards the rear of the standings, cut the inside barrier of the first part of the complex at the bottom of the hill leading to the port of Monaco, which caused his left rear tire to blow off his rim and he then spun as it passed through the middle part of the complex.
Although Hulkenberg was able to escape and slowly make his way back to the pits, the session was red flagged for three minutes while debris from the incident was recovered.
FP1 resumed with 20 minutes to go, with Alonso taking the lead with a 1m13.907s on his first flight after the restart, just after Perez moved into third and leading Sainz’s early lead times on the mediums.
The Ferrari drivers had finally reappeared a few minutes before the red flag, still using the medium tires but not disturbing the lead in lap times as they had done in the early stages.
That changed when Sainz moved back into first place with a 1m13.690s to edge Alonso by 0.058s, heading into the final 10 minutes.
Alonso then closed the gap to 0.020s just after being enraged upon encountering Perez running slowly down the racing line through Casino Square, before Sainz’s next flyer took him to 0.338s as he recorded a 1m13.372s.
There were no further improvements as Alex Albon then crashed hard at St Devote and pulled out the red flags again – the Williams driver losing his rear halfway through the first right-hander then slamming its left front and rear wheels in the barriers.
With just over three minutes remaining on the clock, the session was not restarted, with Albon reporting that he was fine and just “bumped his knees” on impact.
The top three were followed by Perez and Leclerc, who, just before the red flag, had bailed out what was to be a personal best lap after a chicane lockup, then lost the rear of his Ferrari in the second part. of the swimming pool.
Verstappen finished sixth after also having a major sliding moment there during the late race – the world champion making angry gestures as he slowly pulled away and into the final corners of the track.
Norris finished seventh ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll, who climbed the order late and were another driver to cut the walls – the Aston driver doing so in the final corners after catching oversteer on the throttle as he was heading towards the pit straight during the middle part of FP1.
Albon completed the top 10, his position preserved thanks to his shunt, with the other Williams driver, Logan Sargeant in 18th position and having to return slowly to the pits with a problem in the rear of his car before the halfway mark.
In the other Mercedes, Russell finished 15th.