Formula 1 is back in Monaco, with 20 drivers including four World Champions (Lewis Hamiton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkkönen), who all won at least once in the streets of the Principality, and four younger drivers who never drove an F1 car on the toughest track on the calendar (Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda, Nicholas Latifi, Nikita Mazepin). The sun was shining and the show was brilliant in front of thousands of masked spectators having passed a PCR test in order to access the grandstands. In these very hot conditions, the quickest driver was Mexican, in the person of Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), who clocked his fastest lap in a promising 1 :12.487, only two seconds slower than Hamilton’s pole position in 2019 (1 :10.166)
Several experts such as Toto Wolff, the big boss at Mercedes F1, expected the Red Bulls to be faster, they were right : 10 minutes before the end of the session, Max Verstappen, followed by Sergio Pérez, settled down on the first lines of the timesheet and eventually, the Mexican recruit of the Austrian team won this first match. He did slightly better than a very promising Carlos Sainz, 2nd for his first outing in Monaco at the wheel of a Ferrari, Verstappen 3rd in the other Red Bull-Honda, and a very surprising Pierre Gasly, 4th in his Alpha Tauri. As they often do during the first free practice sessions, Mercedes drivers took it easy and posted the 5th and 6th times, half a second slower than their Mexican rival.
The crowd had all reason to be disappointed since local hero Charles Leclerc could only complete 4 laps before parking his beautiful Ferrari in the garage for the rest of the session, he had a major gearbox issue. « I don’t understand, is my engine broken ? », he asked his crew. In the meantime, his Spanish team-mate managed to clock the 2nd time of the session, only one tenth of a second slower than Pérez, ahead of Verstappen, in the other Honda-powered Red Bull. A very promising result, waiting for FP2 scheduled at 3 pm.