MONACO GP – Carlos Sainz tops first practice three tenths ahead of Fernando Alonso

Testing & Race Reports

Carlos Sainz was fastest in first practice for this weekends Monaco Grand Prix, the Ferrari driver set a 13.372 on the medium tyres which put him three tenths ahead of his fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso. Sainz and Alonso had fought for top spot during the final ten minutes of the session before the red flag brought the session to an early conclusion.

Alex Albon brought out the late red flag, the Williams lost the rear half way through Sainte Devote, and then slamming his front and rear left-side wheels into the barriers. With just over three minutes remaining on the clock, the session was not restarted, with Albon reporting he was ok and just “knocked my knees” in the impact.

Alonso had been at one stage just two hundredths behind, but on his final attempt was held up through Casino Square by Sergio Perez who was on the racing line, then Sainz improved and increased the gap to three tenths. Mercedes showed promise with their upgrades Lewis Hamilton going third fastest three thousandths ahead of Perez.

Hamilton had an encouraging session in the Mercedes, which has a major redesign featuring revised front suspension, sidepods and floor as they seek to begin a route back to competitiveness. Mercedes have gone into the weekend trying to manage expectations from the upgrades because of the unique circuit in Monte Carlo.

Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari fifth six hundredths behind Perez as he spilt the Red Bulls with Max Verstappen sixth. Leclerc has taken pole for his home race in the last two years, but the Monacan aborted his lo when he hit the wall through the Swimming Pool, which looked faster than Sainz. then Albon’s crash prevented a final attempt before the chequered flag

Things didn’t sound great for Verstappen, the Dutchman complaining  that his early set-up was causing so much bottoming out that he feared he was “going to shunt”.  Red Bull over half a second off the pace giving perhaps hope to their domination of the first five races comes to an end.

Verstappen was a tenth and a half behind Leclerc, but the red Bull driver had a big slide late in the session as he gestured angrily as he toured slowly away and through the track’s final turns. He was two tenths faster than Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll going ninth.

After the cancellation of last weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix due to severe flooding in northern Italy, there was even greater intrigue than usual as returned to Monaco. The start of the European season normally brings upgrades, the question was following the cancellation of Imola would their be true understanding of the pecking order in Monaco.

Hard conclusions may have to wait until next weekend in Barcelona, but it looks as if Red Bull remain the team to beat in normal circumstances but Aston, Ferrari and Mercedes have made steps forwards.

Ferrari have shown impressive form at Monaco in recent years, and Sainz’s 1:13.372, which was more than 0.3s clear of Alonso in second, suggests they will be a major threat for pole position on Saturday.

The Canadian jumping up to ninth despite avoiding the wall half way through the session through the final corners as he caught the snap of oversteer through Anthony Noghes, as he powered out of the final corner. Despite his crash at the end of FP1, Albon rounded out the top ten, just over a hundredth behind Stroll.

As always the streets of Monte Carlo were  stunning and high-risk street circuit, there was drama and incident, with several drivers escaping contact. Valtteri Bottas put his Alfa Romeo eleventh ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly. George Russell couldn’t deliver the same performance as Hamilton going fifteenth over a second and a half off the pace.

Nyck De Vries put his Alpha Tauri sixteenth going just over a tenth faster than Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant and Guanyu Zhou. Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the field, the Haas driver nearly two and a half seconds off the out right pace.

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