Charles Leclerc got his Monte Carlo Grand Prix weekend off to a dream start with the fastest time in FP1.
The Monegasque who grew up around these streets had a virtually trouble-free session despite being one of many drivers who briefly visited the Ste Devote escape road.
Despite forecasts that temperatures would be cooler compared to Spain, the weekend’s opening Practice session took place in humid conditions, with ambient temperatures hitting 31 degrees whilst track temperatures hitting 54 degrees.
Lando Norris would start the session after declaring himself fit just before the session after the Brit struggling with tonsillitis since last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix missed the morning’s press conference after being granted a medical exemption.
The first drivers to hit the track were championship Max Verstappen, Alex Albon, George Russell and Carlos Sainz, with 14 of the 20 runners also leaving the pits within the first two minutes of the session. Nicholas Latifi and Lewis Hamilton were the last two drivers to leave the pits as they waited for a clear track.
All the cars that left the track in the session’s opening minutes were on the medium compound of tyre, with the Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Sainz setting the early benchmark with a 1:15.883 over three tenths quicker than Verstappen.
Leclerc did make a brief visit to the Ste Devote after over 15 minutes passed in the session, but luckily for the hometown hero, all that was lost was a brief amount of track time.
Mick Schumacher’s session came to an abrupt end with just under twenty minutes to go after reporting a gearbox problem on his way back to the pits, and unfortunately for Schumacher, he didn’t make it back to his garage, blocking the pit entry and bringing the red flag with just under twenty minutes gone.
Verstappen led Leclerc and Norris at the halfway stage by over three tenths, with Sainz fourth ahead of Hamilton and Ricciardo, whilst Perez was seventh but over a second down.
Next to move to the front was Norris with a 1:15.301, +0.026 quicker than Verstappen in second, with Hamilton and Ricciardo moving up into the top four after breaking into the 1:15s. The Australian then moved up to second after posting a 1:15.241 over a tenth behind his teammate.
Pierre Gasly found some speed in the latter stages of the session, briefly vaulting himself up to second with a 1:15.083, +0.027 behind Norris, who fell back to second after Verstappen, now on softs, produced a 1:14.712 before locking up at Ste Devote narrowly missing the barriers.
Kevin Magnussen also went down the Ste Devote escape road with just over 12 minutes left in the session, and like messers Verstappen and Leclerc, he avoided the barriers.
But in the final ten minutes of the session, Leclerc and Sainz moved back to the front of the timesheets with the Monegasque the quicker of the pair with a 1:14.531 +0.070 quicker than Sainz. Perez then split the pair with a 1:14.570 before proceeding to lock up into Ste Devote.