Lewis Hamilton topped an ultra-close opening practice session for the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix where the fastest three drivers were covered by just seven-hundredths of a second.
The Englishman, who was excused of all media commitments in the lead-up to the sport’s most iconic race as the Mercedes-AMG team mourns the death of non-executive director Niki Lauda, posted a fastest time of 1:12.106 to head the time sheets.
The championship leader and two-time Monaco race-winner’s time was challenged by teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished just 0.072 seconds slower to finish the session third-quickest. The Finn, who lost his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to Hamilton when he was beaten by the Englishman at the preceding Spanish Grand Prix, had an untidy session that saw him slide up the escape road at Sainte-Dévote and a slight brush with the barriers exiting Anthony Noghes.
Sandwiched between the two was Max Verstappen in the Red Bull Racing Honda, who immediately confirmed predictions that the Milton Keynes squad could be a force to be reckoned with this weekend. The Dutch driver, whose outing at the Principality last year marked something of a turning point in his form, finished just 0.059 seconds off Hamilton’s pace.
Local hero Charles Leclerc was out to impress in his first outing on home soil as a Ferrari driver. He Monégasque native donned a special ‘split’ helmet livery with the racing colours of his late father on one side and the helmet design of his childhood friend Jules Bianchi on the other. He finished the session fourth-fastest and three-tenths of a second adrift to lead Ferrari’s charge, while teammate Sebastian Vettel was a further four-tenths behind and fifth-quickest. Completing the top-six was Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull Honda.
The factory Renault’s chassis deficiencies were less apparent on the Monte Carlo street circuit, which in part helped Nico Hülkenberg head the midfield pack. The German was impressively just one-tenth of a second shy of Gasly’s quickest time, and with teammate and defending Monaco Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo just 0.2 seconds further back, the Enstone squad will be looking to score points this weekend.
They will be closely challenged by the likes of the Haas and Alfa Romeo teams, with both outfits’ drivers showing decent pace. Kevin Magnussen (P8) and Romain Grosjean (P10) both got their cars into the top half of the timesheets, but had a dramatic session nonetheless when the team lost all telemetry and radio contact with their drivers. With the pit boards proving ineffective at being able to summon their drivers in to the garage, the team took the creative approach of asking Race Control to ‘black flag’ both cars to instruct their drivers to return to pit lane.
Despite this being one of his least favourite circuits, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen marked his 300th Grand Prix appearance with the ninth-fastest time. Teammate Antonio Giovinazzi enjoyed a productive session by his standards and was less than one-tenth slower than the 2007 World Champion, placing twelfth-fastest.
The 90-minute session featured a number of incidents as drivers tested the limits of their cars and skills on a still low-grip track surface. The aforementioned Bottas was one of a number of drivers to visit the Sainte-Dévote run-off, with Sebastian Vettel, Lando Norris and Lance Stroll all out-braking themselves on the approach to the right-hander at various stages in FP1.
Verstappen slid up the escape road at Mirabeau and needed a push by the track marshals to reverse his car back onto the track, while teammate Gasly did well to avoid hitting the Armco barriers through the Swimming Pool complex when his RB15 had a wild oversteer moment that his lightning reflexes managed to catch.
The most dramatic incident of the session came when Robert Kubica had a spin in his Williams coming out of Casino Square, nerfing his front wing into the barriers but suffering no other damage to his FW42.
Carlos Sainz Jr. failed to post a representative time in his McLaren, which managed just four slow laps at the end of the session after his mechanics fixed a Renault power unit issue.
|FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 1|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:12.106||47|
|2.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:12.165||+ 0.059||35|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:12.178||+ 0.072||43|
|4.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:12.467||+ 0.361||25|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:12.823||+ 0.717||36|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:13.170||+ 1.064||41|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:13.227||+ 1.121||45|
|8.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:13.232||+ 1.126||24|
|9.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:13.363||+ 1.257||39|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:13.379||+ 1.273||23|
|11.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:13.413||+ 1.307||41|
|12.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:13.437||+ 1.331||39|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:13.731||+ 1.625||40|
|14.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:13.827||+ 1.721||45|
|15.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:14.278||+ 2.172||39|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:14.566||+ 2.460||40|
|17.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:15.115||+ 3.009||40|
|18.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:15.514||+ 3.408||24|
|19.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:16.135||+ 4.029||37|
|20.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||2:00.670||+ 48.564||4|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport