Monaco Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton has taken first blood for Mercedes AMG in Monaco, finishing 0.196 clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Max Verstappen was P3 for Red Bull Racing.
With the sun starting to peek through the clouds after an overcast early morning, FP1 started with near perfect conditions for the drivers to warm up their weekend. As the lights turned green to start the session, many headed straight out on track to start the process of getting used to having barriers inches away from their every move. The two Mercedes drivers were straight down to it, with Bottas setting early fastest times and lowering the benchmark with every lap. The two Red Bull drivers joined in to mix things up in the top four, before Sebastian Vettel set a 1:14.289 to take over at the top.
Jenson Button, returning to F1 with McLaren in place of Fernando Alonso this weekend, fitted his car with Soft tyres and set about putting in lap after lap as he accustomed himself to driving a car for the first time since Abu Dhabi 2016. He began very cautiously, with his best time after 45 minutes being four seconds off the pace of the front. Approaching the halfway point of the ninety minutes, Vettel was fastest ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, both on the UltraSoft tyres, but Daniil Kvyat was a surprise – the Toro Rosso was P3 on the SuperSofts, a slower compound tyre. Underlining Toro Rosso’s early pace, Carlos Sainz was 0.3 seconds further back on the same tyre and in P6, the two Toro Rossos split by Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull & Williams’ Felipe Massa.
Halfway through the session, Mercedes went out on the UltraSoft. Hamilton put in a 1:13.9 to take top spot, before Bottas responded with an even stronger lap to go a further tenth clear of his teammate. The Mercs, now P1 & P2, were almost half a second clear of Vettel’s P3 time, on a track that is just 74 seconds long. This gap became almost a second a few minutes later, with Hamilton putting in a 1:13.425 to go 0.366 faster than Bottas.
Ferrari eventually responded, with Vettel putting in a 1:13.621, 0.196 down on Hamilton’s time and taking over P2 from Bottas.
Jenson Button steadily ramped up his pace, heading out on the UltraSofts and building up to a time just 1.5 seconds off the front, and less than 0.2 down on Vandoorne.
Hamilton’s 1:13.425 kept him at the top when the chequered flag was shown. That time is 2.1 seconds faster than the best time set in the same session last year, highlighting the pace improvement of the cars over last year, and is also the fastest ever laptime set around the circuit – aided by recent changes to the track layout at the Swimming Pool complex. Vettel stayed P2, 0.196 down on Hamilton, with Verstappen finishing P3 for Red Bull Racing. Bottas finished P4 in the second Mercedes, with the second RBR of Daniel Ricciardo in P5. P6 went to Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso, Kimi Raikkonen was P7 for Ferrari, Sergio Perez P8 for Force India, Carlos Sainz finished ninth in the second Toro Rosso, while Esteban Ocon was P10 for Force India in his first F1 session in Monaco.
Nico Hulkenberg didn’t get out on track at all during the session, with Renault investigating an Energy Store issue on his car, while Marcus Ericsson was sidelined for the whole session due to a gearbox issue.