Monaco GP FP1: Carlos Sainz quickest as much-anticipated new W14 makes debut

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton in the revised Mercedes W14. Monaco May 2023

Lewis Hamilton in the revised Mercedes W14. Monaco May 2023

Carlos Sainz set the pace in the opening practice session in Monaco, a session in which Mercedes debuted their upgrades and Alex Albon brought out the red flags.

Sainz was the one to beat on the medium tyres as he laid down a 1:13.372 to finish three-tenths ahead of Fernando Alonso, the driver many predict could take the win this weekend, while Lewis Hamilton in his revised W14 was third.

On a weekend in which many pundits have predicted Red Bull’s winning streak could end, Max Verstappen had a difficult session as he complained of bottoming and reported that the team’s set-up changes hadn’t helped. He finished P6 with Sergio Perez fourth.

After an extended break following Imola’s cancellation, the Formula 1 drivers took to the Monte Carlo circuit on a glorious Friday with the much-anticipated revised Mercedes W14 making its on-track debut.

Lando Norris laid down a 1:18.618 to get the timesheet rolling with Lewis Hamilton replying with a 1:20.045 as the Briton put in his very first on-track lap in the updated car. There were a concern for Max Verstappen at the start of the session, the reigning World Champion reporting a “clutch” issue followed by “the car is bottoming too much”.

But it was Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz who was the first to kiss the wall, a hefty touch with his front right, and yet he still went P2 behind his team-mate Charles Leclerc before overhauling him with a 1:5.198. Leclerc was 0.7s down after the opening 10 minutes with Hamilton third, complaining the “rears are too hot” and Verstappen P4.

A quick front wing flap tweak and Leclerc was back out and P1, a 1:14.562, with Verstappen then saying his bottoming out was “severe”. Told of Red Bull’s gap to their rivals, he replied: “That’s not important, we need to sort ourselves out”.

The Dutchman continued to complain – “Mate, I want to box. I’m going to shunt like this with the car set-up like this” – before pitting for changes as did George Russell who complained about front-end stability and Leclerc, the latter telling Ferrari they “need to do some changes to the car.”

Logan Sargeant also wasn’t happy with his car, the Williams driver reporting “something is wrong, I heard a weird sound”. He was told to “leave the radio” and slowly made his way back to the Williams garage, the driver down in 20th place.

Back at the front Hamilton was P1 midway through the session with a 1:14.035, 0.210s up Sainz, with Norris third, a further 0.2s down. recommends

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Back on the track Verstappen was asked if he had any feedback with the driver replying that it’s “really not good”. He was told he may have to live with it for FP1. Despite his complaints he improved to third behind Sainz. Russell was also still struggling, telling Mercedes he can’t get his tyres to work and that the “rears are too weak”.

As Alonso jumped up into second place, Nico Hulkenberg ran into trouble as the German suffered a left-rear tyre failure with the rubber flailing as he made his way back to the pits. The Haas driver had spun his VF-23 and clipped the barrier, destroying the tyre to bring out the red flags for debris.

It was a welcome break for Verstappen as his mechanics yet again worked on the set-up of his RB19. But with the action back underway, and Verstappen in the garage, Alonso swapped to the medium tyres and laid down a 1:13.907 to go quickest. His reign was short-lived with Sainz going faster, a 1:13.690,

Back on track, in a brief moment of one-upmanship with Hamilton where both cut the chicane, Hamilton went third behind Sainz and Alonso while Verstappen’s time was only fast enough for P6, his team-mate Perez P4.

The session was red flagged for the second time with three minutes on the clock when Alex Albon brought out the session’s second red flag, the Williams driver hard into the barrier at St Devote when he lost the rear end with the rear left of the car destroyed. “Banged my knees,” he reported when asked if he was okay.

Race Control opted not to restart the session, Sainz finishing quickest ahead of Alonso and Hamilton.


1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 1:13.372
2 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.338
3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.663
4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.666
5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.721
6 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.872
7 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.095
8 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.213
9 Lance STROLL Aston Marti +1.281
10 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.294
11 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.346
12 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.353
13 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.448
14 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.494
15 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.694
16 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.711
17 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.820
18 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2.185
19 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +2.312
20 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +2.413