Carlos Sainz set the pace in the first Free Practice session of the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, as the speedy Spaniard beat his teammate, home hero Charles Leclerc to the top of the timesheet before Williams’ Alex Albon’s nasty bump into the Sainte Devote barriers brought an early end to proceedings in the opening hour.
The Monaco GP has thrilled for almost a century, forcing drivers to push themselves, and their cars to the very edge through the narrow city streets. Now the cars are as large as they are fast, and while this may result in less overtaking during the race, the perils persist throughout the event, with millimetres often making the difference between the fastest lap and a red flag.
With this is mind it is perhaps less surprising to see that Albon was the second driver to prompt a red flag within just the first hour of the session. Niko Hulkenberg spun out on the Nouvelle Chicane, colliding his rear-left tyre with the barrier and off the rim of his Haas. The German was able to get his car back to pits having suffered a much smaller shunt than that of his Williams counterpart in the following minutes.
At the end of a hectic first Free Practice, Sainz topped the time sheet with a fastest lap time of 1:13.372, a whole 0.338 seconds faster than the second speediest Spaniard, Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton clocked the third fastest lap time, beating Sergio Perez by 0.003 seconds.
Meanwhile, Leclerc was fifth-fastest, ahead of a bemused Max Verstappen with the sixth fastest lap time. The action will resume with a second Free Practice session, from 17:00 until 18:00 on Friday, May 26.
Featured image courtesy of @WilliamsRacing on Twitter