Leclerc tops competitive opening practice in Monaco

Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc has ended the opening practice session for the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix fastest.

Less than a tenth of a second split the top three, with Sergio Perez second and Carlos Sainz third.

Championship leader Max Verstappen was fourth best, while Daniel Ricciardo was seventh, 0.6s off the outright pace.

Conditions were hot, air temperatures of nearly 30 degrees while the track approached the mid-50s.

The tyre allocation for the weekend is the softest in Pirelli’s range, two steps softer than were used in Spain a week ago.

The hard compound tyre was the preferred rubber as the session began, only the two Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc heading out on mediums.

Early feedback from drivers centred on ride quality, the cars stiffer this year than they have been previously.

That translated into a more difficult time of it for the drivers as they chased improved handling.

Latifi’s entry into the session was delayed with a radio issue, while at Alfa Romeo Sauber a gearbox issue hindered Valtteri Bottas’ running.

Times tumbled quickly, starting in the 1:20 bracket and dropping to 1:15.8s by Leclerc after just 10 minutes.

Sainz in the sister Ferrari set a near identical time, just 0.001s slower than his team-mate, while Verstappen was only 0.05s back after 15 minutes.

Leclerc headed up the escape road at Ste Devout, abording the corner early before affecting a flick spin and heading up Beau Rivage.

A gearbox issue for Mick Schumacher halted the session as he stopped at pit entry, blocking access to the lane.

The Haas was quickly recovered and pushed clear, the interruption lasting just four minutes.

Both Mercedes drivers were struggling with the handling of their car, specifically the way the can navigated the bumps.

That saw dampers being changed on Hamilton’s car under the red flag, though it scarcely improved things for the Englishman.

There were less issues at McLaren, Norris swapping from hards to soft compound tyres to go fastest with a 1:15.301s.

He then improved that to a 1:15.056s, Ricciardo recording a time just 0.185s slower than his McLaren team-mate as the pair sat atop the timesheets.

A combination of track evolution, set-up work, tyre compound, and driver confidence made times difficult to read.

Russell, for instance, was strong through the first third of the lap but dropping time through the remaining two sectors.

Whether that was a case of risk management, car performance, or tyre condition is unclear.

Verstappen adopted a higher risk approach than many others, improving to a 1:14.712s.

Soon after, he repeated Leclerc’s mistake from earlier in the session, heading up the escape road at Ste Devout.

The Red Bull driver heavily locked his front-right wheel on approach to the right hander, the Dutchman circling back to the pits once he’d recovered in need of a fresh set of boots.

It proved a hot spot of action with Kevin Magnussen and Perez also drawing the yellow flags as they recovered from the similar incidents.

By the end of the session, Leclerc had lowered the benchmark time to 1:14.531s, just 0.039s quicker than Perez and 0.070s better than Sainz.

Verstappen ended up fourth fastest from Norris, while Ricciardo was seventh behind Gasly.

Running in Monaco continues with Free Practice 2 at 01:00 AEST.

Results: Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, Free Practice 1

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 29 1:14.531
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 30 1:14.570 +0.039s
3 55 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Ferrari 28 1:14.601 +0.070s
4 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 26 1:14.712 +0.181s
5 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 31 1:15.056 +0.525s
6 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 33 1:15.083 +0.552s
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team 33 1:15.157 +0.626s
8 63 George Russell Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 34 1:15.211 +0.680s
9 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin F1 Team 33 1:15.387 +0.856s
10 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 29 1:15.499 +0.968s
11 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 36 1:15.536 +1.005s
12 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1 Team 26 1:15.539 +1.008s
13 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team 28 1:15.749 +1.218s
14 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 30 1:15.806 +1.275s
15 23 Alex Albon Williams Racing 39 1:16.110 +1.579s
16 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team 24 1:16.315 +1.784s
17 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo F1 Team 27 1:16.417 +1.886s
18 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing 30 1:17.714 +3.183s
19 47 Mick Schumacher Haas F1 Team 12 1:18.636 +4.105s
20 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Team 2 0:00.000 00.000

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