Hamilton, Mercedes surge to lead opening Monaco GP practice

Lewis Hamilton topped an interrupted but clean first practice session at the Monaco Grand Prix while Red Bull Racing again struggled with setup.

Hamilton was one of 10 drivers to burn a set of soft tires in the opening hour of track time to set a lap of 1m12.169s, seeing off fellow soft-shod rival Oscar Piastri by 0.029s. The Mercedes driver’s top-spot finish was partly facilitated by a brief red flag waved seconds after he crossed the line, ensuring no other driver could usurp him just as they were beginning to wind up on the softer tire compounds.

Zhou Guanyu triggered the suspension when he smacked his Sauber into the barriers exiting Sainte Devote. Though the Chinese driver was able to continue without serious damage, the collision showered the track with carbon fiber.


Race control decided to halt the session to clean the track, though the call came too late for perennially luckless home hero Charles Leclerc, who was just behind Zhou on the road and vacuumed up several pieces of debris. The Ferrari’s floor was sufficiently damaged as to write off the rest of the home favorite’s session, with the team instead using the final 10 minutes for extended pit stop practice.

Leclerc nonetheless ended the session an impressive 0.228s off the pace in fifth despite not having used the soft tire, being the highest placed driver of the hour on the medium compound. George Russell and Lando Norris slipped into third and fourth ahead of him, both on softs, at 0.126s and 0.227s adrift respectively.

Fernando Alonso led Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll in sixth and seventh ahead of closely marched RB duo Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo.

Carlos Sainz completed the top 10 for Ferrari, the Spaniard also denied a run on the soft compound.

Red Bull Racing likewise kept its softs in the blankets, but Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were struggling with more than just rubber choice.

Verstappen was 11th and 0.815s off the pace in a car he described as being “on a knife’s edge,” several times giving the barriers hefty but ultimately harmless whacks.

Teammate Perez’s session as similarly flat — literally in his case, with the Mexican picking up a left-rear puncture on a set of mediums late in the hour.

Valtteri Bottas led Kevin Magnussen, Alex Albon, Nico Hulkenberg, Logan Sargeant and Esteban Ocon from 13th and 18th.

The crashed-out Zhou ended the hour 19th ahead of only Pierre Gasly, who finished the session last without a representative time thanks to a suspected wastegate issue.

Gasly was called back to his garage after just five laps after a power unit problem revealed itself in the data, and though the team sent him back out only minutes later, his Alpine had no power on his out-lap, and he was forced to abandon the rest of the session for more significant repairs.


Story originally appeared on Racer