Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton set the third fastest lap in a new-look Mercedes with significant improvements to the struts and suspension, while last year’s winner Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull.
Perez warned ahead of the circuit action that Monaco is not Red Bull’s strongest circuit, despite the champions having won all five races so far this season.
The Mexican identified the Ferrari drivers and Alonso as the biggest threats.
Sainz’s best time of one minute and 13.372 seconds on a beautifully sunny afternoon in the Mediterranean principality was set on medium tires and under the watchful eyes of Ferrari president John Elkann.
His best time was 0.338 faster than Alonso’s effort.
The session ended three minutes early when red flags indicated that Alex Albon had crashed his Williams exiting the first Sainte Devote corner, destroying the left side of his car.
“Quite a lot of damage. It’s both the front corner and the back corner, the rear wing, the honeycomb wing I think equally likely,” James Vowles, team boss, told reporters, but he was confident that Albon will manage to reach the second session.
Practice was also suspended with 22 minutes to go when Nico Hulkenberg hit the barrier and spun his Haas at the Nouvelle Chicane after the tunnel.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, the local hero who will be chasing a third consecutive pole position in Monaco on Saturday, was fifth fastest, while Red Bull’s double world champion Max Verstappen was sixth and was not comfortable with the configuration of his car.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was seventh fastest.
The Mercedes was the center of attention when all the cars were on display in the pitlane ahead of the session, and track engineering director Andrew Shovlin reserved judgement.
“I didn’t see any major problems, which is a good start. I was doing some set-up comparisons between the cars, so I think we have a good direction there – Lewis seemed to be in a happier place than George (Russell),” he said. he said.
“It’s a good start, but we’re certainly mindful of the many ways you can go wrong in Monaco.
“Monaco is about confidence for the driver. Lewis had it this morning but George didn’t, so it’s about working on the adjustments that will bring that.”
Russell was only 15th fastest.
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