Max Verstappen returned to his familiar P1 spot by the end of Friday practice in Monaco, but Charles Leclerc gave the Red Bull driver reason to expect a challenge this weekend.
It had been a tricky opening hour of practice for Verstappen, but by the end of FP2 in Monaco, he was sitting P1 with a 1:12.462 setting the pace.
Red Bull were always expected to be in the mix this weekend, but Leclerc’s performance suggested that the usual dominance may be shelved for this unique round of the F1 2023 campaign, ending the session 0.065s adrift, while Carlos Sainz looks like ensuring both Ferraris are in the fight…if he keeps it out of the wall.
After Verstappen set the early pace, Aston Martin decided to take the plunge on the soft rubber, Alonso finding nine-tenths compared to his effort on the medium rubber as he became the first driver of the race weekend to enter the 1:12s, clocking a 1:12.786.
Sainz though continued to show his credentials around this circuit, bettering Alonso’s time by north of two-tenths when he made the switch to the soft compound.
P3 was the best Verstappen could manage with his first soft-tyre run on a lap where traffic certainly did him no favours, suggesting time was left on the table.
He duly turned that suggestion into reality, clearing Sainz’s benchmark by a tenth as he delivered a 1:12.462.
Sainz was unable to chase down that Verstappen time, because he had put the Ferrari into the wall with just under 20 minutes remaining in the session, Sainz having clipped the barrier on exit to the swimming pool chicane, sending him to the scene of the accident.
It was not all doom and gloom for Ferrari though, with Leclerc having finished as the closest challenger to Verstappen, only 0.065s adrift.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:12.462
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.065
3 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.107
4 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.220
5 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.444
6 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.498
7 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.529
8 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.588
9 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.627
10 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.700
11 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.723
12 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.729
13 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +0.892
14 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.995
15 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.058
16 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.179
17 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.201
18 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.211
19 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.776
20 Alexander ALBON Williams +2.053