Home hero Leclerc stormed to first in the afternoon after gearbox issues limited his morning run to only four laps
By Yuri Coghe
Unusual suspects took centre stage in Monaco with Sergio Pérez and Charles Leclerc leading the free practice sessions on Thursday.
The Mexican driver set a 1:12s487 lap time to top a practice session for the first time as a Red Bull driver in the FP1. Home hero Leclerc then stormed to first in the FP2 with a 1:11s684 lap time after gearbox issues limited his first session run to only four laps.
Leclerc is racing with a helmet specially designed for this weekend to pay homage to Louis Chiron, the only Monegasque to ever win the Monaco Grand Prix in 1931. The race has been part of the F1 championship since the series started in 1950, only failing to be on the calendar in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carlos Sainz Jr. had a great start to the weekend as well, taking his Ferrari to second place in the timesheet on both sessions. Max Verstappen came third and fourth in the FP1 and FP2, respectively, with teammate Perez dropping to eighth in the second session.
Championship leaders Mercedes saw Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finishing fifth and sixth in the Monaco morning, then third and fifth in the afternoon.
McLaren, racing with a special retro livery this weekend, had more of a split between its two drivers. Lando Norris, fresh off signing a multi-year deal with the team, came seventh in the FP1 and sixth in the FP2. Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, finished 15th on both sessions.
Pierre Gasly had a good performance in the first session, setting a 1:12s929 lap time, the fastest at that time, to finish fourth. The Frenchman finished seventh in the FP2. Aston Martin had cars in the top 10 in both sessions, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing the FP1 tenth and Antonio Giovinazzi coming ninth in the FP2.
Rookies and champs both struggle
Rookies and world champions had their fair share of struggles in the streets of Monaco as the street circuit continues to prove to be a challenge for both legends and newcomers.
Returning two-time world champion Fernando Alonso damaged his front wing in the first session by going wide and. The incident caused a brief virtual safety car. Alonso, a two-time Monaco GP winner, also came out of the track later in the session. Raikkonen, who won in Monaco in 2005 and conquered the championship two years later, did the same on turn 1 in the FP1.
Rookie Mick Schumacher hit the barriers late in the second session. Unable to bring the car to the pits, he then parked next to the Nouvelle Chicane amid red flags, bringing an end to the Thursday sessions in Monaco. The German finished behind teammate Nikita Mazepin in both Monaco Thursday free practice sessions.
Yuki Tsunoda, racing in Monaco for the first time in his career, also met the wall in the second session. The Japanese driver finished last in the FP2 as the accident cut his session short.
Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi, racing in Monaco in an F1 car for the first time, had an incident himself in the hairpin but managed to avoid the walls. He finished 14th in the first session, five positions ahead of teammate George Russell, and 17th in the second, a position behind the Briton.
Sainz Jr. and Lance Stroll also had brief encounters with the wall that did not cause any noticeable issues. The Canadian finished eleventh and 13th in the FP1 and FP2, respectively, coming behind teammate Sebastian Vettel, who came eighth and tenth, on both occasions.
The Monaco Grand Prix is set for 9 PM EST on Sunday, with the qualifying session starting on the same time on Saturday.
See the full FP1 results below
See the full FP2 results below
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