Carlos Sainz edged Fernando Alonso to top spot in first practice at the Monaco Grand Prix as the Red Bull Racing drivers struggled for composure around the serpentine street track.
With medium tires bolted on, Sainz and Alonso spent the final 15 minutes trading fastest laps, gradually separating themselves from the chasing pack. But with around five minutes to go Sainz set a sizzling final time of 1m13.372s to put top spot beyond reach of the Aston Martin driver, the margin 0.338s.
Despite setting the quickest time in the first split, Alonso lost the opportunity to respond when Alex Albon put his Williams in the barriers at Sainte Devote, bringing out red flags with four minutes remaining.
The Thai driver carried too much speed into the first turn and slammed his Williams into the barrier, the left-rear wheel bearing the brunt of the impact.
A nasty shunt for Alex Albon in FP1#MonacoGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/osgxk9V6zM
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 26, 2023
The session wasn’t resumed, leaving Sainz with top spot.
Lewis Hamilton was third in his heavily upgraded Mercedes car, the Briton 0.663s off the pace.
Sergio Perez, winner of last year’s race in Monte Carlo, was the happier Red Bull Racing driver, and though the RB19 looked competitive in the first sector, it shipped time to Sainz in the final two splits.
Home driver Charles Leclerc was fifth and 0.721s slower than his teammate, while a troubled Max Verstappen was 0.872s adrift. The Dutchman was unhappy with the balance of his car throughout the session, and though changes were made in the middle of the hour, the RB19 still looked twitchy on his push laps. The team signaled more tweaks would be made out of session before FP2.
Lando Norris was the first driver more than a second adrift, leading Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll and the crashed Albon to complete the top 10.
Valtteri Bottas was 11th ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.
George Russell was far less happy with his updated Mercedes relative to third-placed teammate Hamilton. The younger Briton complained he couldn’t get temperature into his tires and lacked confidence in the turns, noting that he needed more rear downforce.
Nyck de Vries was 16th ahead of Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant — the American ended the session under investigation from the stewards for being sent out on track in an unsafe condition, apparently related to a loose wheel — and Zhou Guanyu.
Nico Hulkenberg was 20th with a punctured left-reartire after taking a bite out of the inside apex barrier exiting the tunnel into the chicane. His Haas was spun backwards, but he was able to limp back to the pits down a tire to retire from the session.