Monaco Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has gone quickest in the opening practice session in Monte Carlo, just pipping Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to the top spot.
With Hamilton getting his head down to start the driving part of this weekend after being given permission to miss media duties on Wednesday on compassionate grounds, the Mercedes man used the Soft tyre to put in a 1:12.106 to go fastest overall in the opening practice session. With the first 90 minutes of track time taking place under grey and cloudy skies, the low track temperature of 26 degrees meant that grip wasn’t particularly good early in the session. It took until the halfway mark of the session for Hamilton to do his time, slowly ramping up as the track improved.
His time would go unbeaten, although Max Verstappen came very close. The Red Bull driver did a 1:12.165 to go P2, just 0.059 off the back of the Mercedes with both using the same Soft tyre compound. However, Verstappen did his time about fifteen minutes after the Mercedes with slightly different track conditions.
Highlighting Mercedes’ strength was Valtteri Bottas. The Finn did a 1:12.178, meaning all of the top three did 1:12.1s, with Bottas’ time 0.072 off Hamilton’s. The fastest Ferrari was Charles Leclerc, who did a 1:12.467 to be 0.3 from the front.
Sebastian Vettel, sporting a bright red tribute helmet for Niki Lauda, was P5 and 0.7 from the front. The German driver made a mistake early in the session as he ran wide at Turn 1, but recovered without problem. Valtteri Bottas was another frontrunner to make a similar error, also avoiding any damage.
Pierre Gasly claimed P6 and was exactly one second behind his teammate’s time, just ahead of the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg by 0.060 seconds. Kevin Magnussen was P8 in the first of the Haas cars, with Romain Grosjean in P10. The two Haas drivers had a bizarre start to the session, as they both got black flags early in the session. The team explained that the black flags were shown to their drivers on their request, as the radio communications had failed and the pit boards were being ignored. They were split by the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen as Alfa aim to bounce back from their poor Spanish weekend.
Daniel Ricciardo was P11 in the second Renault, ahead of Alfa’s Antonio Giovinazzi. Daniil Kvyat went P13 in his Toro Rosso, right ahead of his teammate Alexander Albon. Lando Norris was P15 in the first of the McLarens, ahead of Sergio Perez in his Racing Point.
George Russell was P17 for Williams, and Robert Kubica P18 – the Pole lucky to avoid serious damage as he lost control of his Williams exiting Casino Square. Sliding sideways across the track, he very lightly tapped the barrier with his front wing but was able to continue and get back to the pits. Lance Stroll was P19, another driver lucky to keep it out of the barriers as he locked up into Turn 1. Carlos Sainz was P20 and last after failing to set a time – the McLaren driver kept cooped up in the garage as the team tried to rectify a gearbox issue on the MCL34.