Red Bull was quickest in FP1 as Sergio Pérez leads the timesheet with a 1m12.487s from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who was 0.119s behind him. Max Verstappen finished third, while the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas was fifth and sixth respectively.
Fans were back but in a limited capacity in the sun-soaked streets of Monte Carlo to witness Formula 1 cars run through the tight and twisty corners after a hiatus of one year.
The season started with the Alfa Romeo duo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen leading a gaggle of cars out of the pit lane. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc began the session waving to his home fans but the joy didn’t last long as the Monégasque quickly returned to the pits, where it was later confirmed that the Ferrari driver would not be coming out for the rest of the session due to a gearbox issue.
In the early stages of the session, it was Sainz on the medium compound tyres who was setting the early pace with purple sectors lap after lap. His initial time of 1m13.338s stayed at the top of the timesheets for almost half of the session. The Red Bull and Mercedes drivers were on the hard compound tyres but were about half a second to a full second adrift of the Spaniard.
As the traffic thinned out and some of the long-run drivers stayed on for more data, it was rather the experienced Fernando Alonso, who shunted his Alpine on the entry to Turn 19, the veteran had to circle an entire lap of the track to make his way back to the pit lane, which temporarily brought out the Virtual Safety Car.
After the debris was cleared, the Mercedes drivers came out on a new set of medium compound tyres, while Red Bull might be looking ahead to the race on Sunday as they sent Verstappen out on the mediums and Pérez came out on the soft compound tyres.
As the session reached the halfway point, times began to tumble as the front runners found some clear track ahead of them to bang in some fast hot laps. Max Verstappen went quickest with a 1m13.191s but Valtteri Bottas followed that up with a 1m13.131s to move briefly into the lead. The Ferrari of Carlos Sainz came out on the same medium compound tyres and went quickest with a 1m12.965s, giving a clear indication of Ferrari’s pace this weekend.
The Red Bull duo quickly returned to the pits following their frustrations with traffic throughout the second run. The two AlphaTauri cars came out on the soft compound tyres as Pierre Gasly went to the top with a 1m12.929s, that same lap Carlos Sainz shunted the side of his Ferrari onto the barrier of Turn 11 and went straight into the pits.
With only 15 minutes left to the end of the session, both the Red Bull drivers came out on the same strategy they were using in their second stint, but this time in clear space. Verstappen went to the top of the timesheet with a 1m12.648s, followed by Pérez with a 1m12.817s to set a Red Bull one-two at the top.
Pérez took the lead with seven minutes remaining with a 1m12.507s, but just as the Red Bull passed Saint Devote, out came the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz after inspections to his car’s bodywork. Two minutes later the Spaniard went second fastest, just 0.099s behind Pérez and 0.042 ahead of Verstappen. In his last run, Pérez further solidified his lead by improving his previous time by two-hundredths of a second.
As the session concluded, the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was sandwiched between the two Red Bull drivers in the first and third, followed by Pierre Gasly, who finished fourth on his soft tyres. The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas will be a little concerned with the fifth and sixth fastest times, but most importantly, half a second off Pérez’s pace. Lando Norris had a decent outing in seventh, with two-time Monaco winner Sebastian Vettel coming in eighth.
Yuki Tsunoda in his first-ever drive on the streets of Monaco managed to escape the barrier and set a confidence-boosting ninth fastest time with veteran Kimi Räikönen rounding off the Top 10. Lance Stroll finished 11th, while the likes of Giovinazzi, Alonso, Nicholas Latifi, and Daniel Ricciardo completed the Top 15. Esteban Ocon finished 16th, while the Haas rookie duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin finished ahead of Williams driver George Russell in 19th. Charles Leclerc, after a gearbox problem that ruled him out for the rest of the session, completed the list.