As the running began around the streets of Monaco, it was Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who led the early running, but he had close company in the form of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, whose best lap was just 0.059s shy of Hamilton’s.
Behind, Valtteri Bottas, was incredibly close too, the Finn ending up just 0.072s off Hamilton’s leading time.
Local hero Charles Leclerc, appearing on the streets he grew up around for the first time as a Ferrari driver, was his team’s leading driver in fourth, 0.361s off the pace, while team mate Sebastian Vettel was fifth, ahead of the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly.
Nico Hulkenberg led the midfield challenge for Renault, as the German impressed to end up within a tenth of Gasly’s time – suggesting that the top three teams might have to watch their backs in qualifying if they want to prevent an upset.
FP1 was littered with small errors as drivers got dialled into the still-green Monaco track, particularly at the first turn at Sainte Devote, the run-off of which was graced by the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris and Lance Stroll during the session.
Elsewhere, Verstappen ran on at Mirabeau, Gasly did well to keep his RB15 out of the barriers at the Swimming Pool as he saved a massive snap there, while Robert Kubica span his Williams FW42 out of Casino Square, and was lucky to escape with just a nerf on the barriers.
Meanwhile, in a bizarre turn of events, both Haas cars found themselves black flagged early in the session, with the team quick to reveal that both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen had suffered radio and telemetry failure, with Haas then pragmatically asking the FIA to help call them in with the black flags. Although the necessary fixes limited both drivers’ track time, Magnussen eventually finished a strong eighth, with Grosjean in P10, with Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen ending up as the meat in a Haas sandwich.
Down at McLaren, it was a tough start to the weekend for Carlos Sainz, as he spent the majority of the session sat at the back of the garage as the mechanics struggled to fix a power unit issue. At a circuit where track time is at a premium, it wasn’t an ideal way for the Spaniard to get his Thursday running underway – although he eventually made it out right at the end of the session before finishing P20, ahead of the Racing Point of Lance Stroll.
So, as predicted, Mercedes appear to have the car to beat early on in Monaco. But Verstappen is lurking dangerously, while there should be more to come from the Ferrari boys too. Bring on FP2…
2019 Monaco Grand Prix – FP1 Results