Leclerc edges Perez in first Monaco practice

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari

Leclerc edges Perez in first Monaco practice

Charles Leclerc narrowly beat Sergio Perez to the top spot in opening practice for the Monaco Grand Prix. The Monegasque’s best lap of 1m14.531s was just 0.039s quicker than the Mexican, with both setting their times on the medium compound in the final 10 minutes of the session.

Carlos Sainz completed a tightly knit top three, just 0.07s behind his Ferrari teammate, but the Spaniard left time on the table. He was set for the fastest lap, complete with purple sectors at the first two splits, when he encountered traffic exiting Swimming Pool and had to abandon the effort, leaving him fractionally adrift.

Both Ferrari drivers complained of bouncing early in the session, but some setup changes halfway through seemed to improve matters, with Leclerc’s floor coming off the car for a time for further configuration work.

Max Verstappen followed in fourth, the Red Bull driver 0.181s behind Leclerc shortly before locking up at Sainte Devote.

Lando Norris, still recovering from a bout of tonsilitis and having avoided public and media interaction all week, was half a second off the pace in fifth. His teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, was a tenth further back in seventh, with the McLaren pair sandwiching Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri between them.

George Russell was the highest-placed Mercedes, finishing the hour eighth and 0.680s off the pace. He beat Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel by almost 0.2s, with Lewis Hamilton completing the top 10 for Mercedes at close to a full second off the pace.

Despite Mercedes’s major step forwarding in performance in Spain last week, the W13 was struggling with severe bouncing again this week.

“It’s so bouncy out here, man, I’m losing my f•••ing mind,” Hamilton said late in the hour, his radio messages having grown increasingly frustrated. The Briton also requested elbow pads for second practice to help deal with being bounced around in the car.

Yuki Tsunoda was 11th ahead of Lance Stroll, while Fernando Alonso was the best of an underwhelming hour for Alpine in 13th.

Kevin Magnussen was 14th for Haas ahead of Williams driver Alex Albon, whose saving of a rear lock-up exiting the tunnel was one of the highlights of the session.

Esteban Ocon led Zhou Guanyu and Nicholas Latifi as the slowest drivers to complete the session.

Mick Schumacher completed only 12 laps before suffering a gearbox failure. He attempted to crawl back to pit lane, but his car ran out of puff at pit entry, forcing a red flag to facilitate his recovery.

Valtteri Bottas — who has predicted a strong weekend for Alfa Romeo — ended the hour last and with just two installation laps to his name after suffering a suspected gearbox problem, and his car was spotted with most of its rear assembly removed as the team attempted to diagnose the problem.

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