Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, edging out teammate Nico Rosberg by just 0.032 seconds at the top of the timesheets.
The Briton’s time of 1:18.271 was good enough to give him P1 just ahead of his teammate, but Mercedes’ advantage was reduced as Red Bull ran the team close in third with Daniel Ricciardo, whilst Fernando Alonso finished in fourth place.
Hamilton’s practice session got off to a rather unconventional start, coming to the track ‘fashionably late’ by way of speedboat just as the green light went out. The majority of the drivers did arrive on time, though, and duly went about getting in their first few laps.
This session marked the first opportunity for the drivers to use the new cars around the streets of Monaco, and it soon showed as a number of them locked up under braking and had to be careful not to put it in the barriers.
Rosberg, having arrived on time, was the first driver to head out and post some lap times. He was followed by a suited-up Lewis Hamilton five minutes later, with Marcus Ericsson and Esteban Gutierrez also posting times early on. Hamilton soon got into his rhythm and matched Rosberg’s pace, but he too made a mistake and was lucky not to hit Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to dip below the 1:20s mark, and he temporarily displaced Mercedes from the top of the timesheets. However, less fortunate was Max Chilton, who spun his car at Mirabeau and was forced to leave it in the run-off area, bringing his session to an early end.
Mercedes soon resumed normal service as Hamilton and Rosberg moved up into first and second place, but Red Bull refused to lie down. Ricciardo continually posted times that were far closer to the Silver Arrows than we have seen so far this season, and only finished two-tenths down on Hamilton.
With 13 minutes to go, Adrian Sutil’s session came to an early end when he lost the rear of the car at Mirabeau, but his Sauber was recovered under double waved yellow flags. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez also hit trouble and had to park his car up at turn one.
Kevin Magnussen had a late scare when Sergio Perez ran slowly in front of him, but the Dane managed to avoid the Force India through La Rascasse. Fernando Alonso also had to think fast to avoid the wall at Mirabeau.
Come the end of the session, Mercedes finished first and second once again, but Red Bull’s strong showing suggests that this is by no means a foregone conclusion in Monaco.