Monaco GP 2024

MAY 24, 2024

Practice 1 Report - Hamilton tops times

Lewis Hamilton
© Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton gave Mercedes a reason for optimism by topping the first practice session (FP1) for the Monaco Grand Prix. However, it was Charles Leclerc's blistering pace on medium tires that caught everyone's attention. The Monegasque driver was nearly 0.6 seconds faster than Max Verstappen on the same Pirelli compound, affirming his status as a favorite for this weekend’s race.

Monaco's unique track saw varied tire strategies from the teams. Mercedes and McLaren allowed their drivers to use all three compounds during FP1, while Ferrari, Red Bull, Haas, and Alpine saved their soft tires for later in the weekend. Notably, Max Verstappen was the only driver to run exclusively on medium tires, indicating his plan to start Sunday’s race on soft tires and then switch to hard compounds for the remaining 78 laps.

The session began with a rush to get on track, as driver confidence is a significant performance differentiator around Monaco. Traffic was expected to be an issue, and two drivers are now under investigation post-session. Max Verstappen is being scrutinized for impeding Esteban Ocon before the last corner, and Kevin Magnussen is under the spotlight for cutting across Yuki Tsunoda’s car in the pit lane after the session's only red flag. The red flag was caused by debris from Zhou Guanuy’s Sauber after he brushed the wall hard exiting the first corner but managed to bring his damaged car back to the pits.

Charles Leclerc’s notorious bad luck in Monaco struck again. He was the first car on the scene after Zhou’s incident and collected some broken parts under his car, necessitating repairs to the floor of the SF-23. Despite this setback, Leclerc's pace on both the hard and medium tires suggests he is the man to beat this weekend. Teammate Carlos Sainz was 0.557 seconds behind Leclerc's best time on identical tires.

Red Bull’s session mirrored their struggles from last week in Imola. Max Verstappen repeatedly complained that "the car is like in an ice rink," citing issues with engine braking and front-end grip. This led to a couple of brushes with the walls and going straight-on at the second chicane of the Swimming Pool section. The Milton Keynes team faces a tough task to rectify these issues before FP2. Sergio Pérez also struggled, mentioning "the front is too light," showing excessive understeer. He apparently touched a wall hard enough to cause a slow puncture in the session's closing minutes.

On the soft tire, Mercedes and McLaren were evenly matched. Hamilton narrowly beat the impressive Oscar Piastri by 0.029 seconds, with George Russell 0.126 seconds behind. Lando Norris was in P4, 0.227 seconds adrift of Hamilton. Aston Martin also had a solid morning session, with Fernando Alonso posting the 6th quickest time, just 0.6 seconds off Hamilton’s pace. Lance Stroll followed closely, just 0.014 seconds behind his teammate, marking his best performance at Monaco since his debut in 2017.

VCARB continued to show strong form, with both drivers comfortably inside the top ten. Yuki Tsunoda was particularly impressive, running inside the top three for a while before ending the session in 8th place on the soft tire. Daniel Ricciardo, after a slower start, gained more on the faster tire than Tsunoda, finishing P9, ahead of Sainz, Verstappen, and Pérez.

Alpine had a tough start to the weekend. A wastegate issue kept Pierre Gasly in the pits for 40 minutes, limiting him to just ten laps. Despite this, Gasly managed one timed lap at the end, gaining some insight into the track improvements and grip on the medium tire. Esteban Ocon also faced setbacks, losing 15 minutes in the pits due to a PU compliance issue. Although Ocon completed 33 laps, his pace was disappointing, indicating that Alpine might struggle compared to last year’s performance on the streets of Monaco.

As the teams prepare for FP2, all eyes will be on whether Ferrari can maintain their early advantage and if Red Bull can resolve their issues in time to challenge for the top spots.