The Madrid driver Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) was the fastest in the first contact with the Monaco Grand Prix with the first Free Practice, ahead of the Spanish Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) and the British Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), in a session in which the current champion, the Dutch Max Verstappen (Red Bull), was not comfortable at any time.
Sainz thus led the Spanish double in a first 60-minute session of Free Practice 1 that was not completed due to a somewhat spectacular accident by Alex Albon (Williams) in the first corner with just 3 minutes to go. The Spaniard, like most of the grid, set the best time of the session (1:13.372) with the medium compound, leaving the soft rubber for future tests.
Alonso also confirmed the good feelings of Aston Martin in this Grand Prix, just three tenths of the time set by Sainz. Also in the fight will be a Hamilton (1:14.035) who closed the ‘podium’ showing that the innumerable improvements by Mercedes seem to be paying off. The Briton was faster than the Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), fifth (1:14.093) with some mishap that did not allow him to perform one hundred percent, and Verstappen, sixth, almost a second behind the best time, who was never comfortable with the configuration of his Red Bull.
This first session, although some rain is expected for Sunday, started with favorable weather conditions: a dry track and a temperature of about 47ºC on the asphalt. Data to take into account, since the tires should play a key role this weekend, as it is a fairly ‘slow’ track and therefore with less effect on aerodynamics.
Everyone chose the hard compound to get out of the ‘pit-lane’, except for the Englishman Lando Norris (McLaren) and the two Ferraris, to start the tests and do as many tests as possible on a circuit where skill and the search for the limits will be key in qualifying and the race. And that was what led, at the beginning, to Sainz to touch the wall of turn 15 intensely, although without suffering too many problems.
After an exchange at the top between Norris and Fernando Alonso, in times around 1:17, it was Leclerc who went down first to 1:15. Quickly it was Sainz who scratched him seven tenths at that time, followed by the Asturian and Verstappen, although still far from the 1:11 that will be marked in qualifying. A few turns after the scare from Madrid, it was Lance Stroll who ‘tested’ the barriers, a blow that weighed him down too much, from there on in the lower zone.
Ferrari showed less suffering on a circuit with hardly any degradation and with better conditions, although it was Sainz who shone on the streets of Monte Carlo in the last third of the session. With medium tyres, the man from Madrid improved Alonso’s time, who had been the first in the low of 1:14, and placed first with a time of 1:13.6. Nobody improved the time of the Spaniard, who even set a new best lap of 1:13.3, establishing the distance with Alonso in three tenths.
The German Nico Hülkenberg (Haas) already gave a scare in the famous ‘chicane’ of Monaco when he suffered a puncture that caused the first red flag. While the final blow was experienced by Albon and his Williams in the first corner when the session was already dying, generating a red flag that meant that the single-seaters no longer left the pits.