Monaco, FP1: Sainz tops opening practice ahead of Alonso as Albon crashes 

Hamilton 3rd, Perez 4th

By Franck Drui

26 May 2023 - 14:36
Monaco, FP1: Sainz tops opening (…)

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz went quickest in the opening practice session for the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, beating Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso to top spot by more than three tenths of a second at the end of a session that ended early when Williams’ Alex Albon crashed in the final minutes.

With a little under three minutes left on the clock in the hour-long session, Albon lost the rear of his FW45 on entry to the first corner, Sainte Devote, and hit the barriers hard with the rear left of his car and with his stricken car stranded and with debris scattered across the track, the session was red-flagged. Race Control quickly indicated it would not be restarted.

At the top of the hour, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc made the initial headway, with the local hero setting a time of 1:15.931 five minutes in to top the timesheet. Sainz then moved past that marker with a lap of 1:15.198. Leclerc was soon back on top, though, thanks to a lap of 1:15.037. He then made a significant step forward to lower the bar to 1:14.562 before Sainz returned to P1 with a lap of 1:14.401. The Spaniard then improved to 1:14.245 before making his way back to the pit lane to plot his next run.

While the Ferrari pair were setting the pace, a number of chasing drivers behind were struggling to find a comfort zone on the street circuit, with championship leader Max Verstappen particularly unhappy with the handling of his car which he said was bottoming out too much.

While the Ferrari drivers ran medium tyres early on, their rivals spent the opening phase on hard compound Pirelli tyres and when they moved to the yellow banded tyres the order changed.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton posted a lap of 1:14.035 to move ahead of the Ferrari drivers, while Verstappen also used the mediums to make progress. The Dutch driver was still unhappy with how his RB19 was bottoming out, though he was told he might have put up with the feeling until the end of the session.

Alonso moved up to P2 just 0.064s behind Hamilton but the session was then halted by red flags when Nico Hülkenberg clipped the barriers on the left-hand side at the Nouvelle Chicane.

The contact punctured Hülkenberg’s rear left tyres and damaged the wheel rim. He was able to limp back to the pits but the session was red-flagged for three minutes while debris from the incident was cleared.

When running began again, Alonso rose to P1 with a lap of 1:13.907 but Sainz wasn’t done and he then retook first place with a lap of 1:13.690. Alonso closed the gap marginally soon after but Sainz was still pushing and he carved out a more significant gap of 0.338s with a final flyer of 1:13.372. Moments later Albon crashed at St Devote to bring the session to a close.

The top three of Sainz, Alonso and Hamilton were followed by Pérez with Leclerc in fifth place and Verstappen, still struggling, in sixth place ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris ended up seventh ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll and the unfortunate Albon.

01 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF-23 1:13.372 26
02 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:13.710 28
03 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1:14.035 27
04 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:14.038 27
05 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1:14.093 24
06 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:14.244 26
07 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:14.467 25
08 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A523 1:14.585 29
09 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:14.653 28
10 Alex Albon Williams Mercedes FW45 1:14.666 32
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:14.718 29
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:14.725 29
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:14.820 29
14 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault A523 1:14.866 30
15 George Russell Mercedes W14 1:15.066 24
16 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:15.083 33
17 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:15.192 32
18 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes FW45 1:15.557 30
19 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:15.684 25
20 Nico Hülkenberg Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:15.785 17


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