Saturday, June 25, 2022

Leclerc fastest in first Monaco practice, bouncing Merc struggle

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Charles Leclerc tops Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz with top three split by a tenth; George Russell and Lewis Hamilton eighth and 10th and Mercedes say car “undriveable” due to bouncing; Watch Practice Two live on Sky Sports F1 at 4pm, with build-up from 3.45pm

By Matt Morlidge in Monaco

Last Updated: 27/05/22 2:23pm

Home hero Charles Leclerc set the pace ahead of Sergio Perez in Monaco GP first practice as F1’s most prestigious and demanding weekend started with a close fight at the front between Ferrari and Red Bull, though Mercedes were plagued by more bouncing.

Leclerc, born and bred in the Principality but still yet to even finish the iconic race, hit back after losing his championship lead last weekend in Spain to lead the way in P1 with a 1:14.531, as the new bigger 2022 cars hit the famous narrow Monte Carlo streets for the first time.

Red Bull, who have installed Ferrari as Monaco favourites, were close behind, with Sergio Perez just 0.039s off Leclerc while the Monegasque’s team-mate Carlos Sainz was also within a tenth in third.

Max Verstappen, last year’s winner and the new championship leader, was a tenth further back, although he and title rival Leclerc both explored the limits at Sainte Devote.

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has a big lock up going into turn one causing his front right tyre to smoke in FP1.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has a big lock up going into turn one causing his front right tyre to smoke in FP1.

McLaren were also quick – with Lando Norris allaying fears about his health after tonsillitis to finish an encouraging fifth and Daniel Ricciardo seventh – but Mercedes were off the pace and uncomfortable.

Mercedes appeared to solve their porpoising last weekend but their W13 car was violently bouncing in first practice despite the slower speeds and George Russell finished eighth and Lewis Hamilton 10th.

“It’s so bouncy out here man I am losing my ******* mind,” said Hamilton. “I need elbow pads in this cockpit is bouncing so much.”

While the Monaco bouncing may be down to a stiff suspension rather than the porpoising of the floor on their car, it is an unwanted headache for Mercedes as they look to build on their newfound F1 2022 momentum.

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Mick Schumacher blocks the pit lane as his car comes to a halt in FP1 which causes a red flag.

Mick Schumacher blocks the pit lane as his car comes to a halt in FP1 which causes a red flag.

“I think we have a ride issue that we’ve had over the season,” team boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1.

“It looks like that our car performs… it’s a good car. But it’s just undriveable like this. We’ll change the setup, try to make it more enjoyable for the drivers.”

Pierre Gasly impressed in sixth for AlphaTauri but there were a few nightmare sessions for other drivers, namely Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas.

Schumacher suffered a gearbox failure early on and was forced to stop his Haas car, blocking the pit lane and causing a red flag in the process.

It was even worse for Bottas, who completed only two laps in an Alfa Romeo many tipped to be quick this weekend. The team said it was a ‘technical issue’.

A huge weekend in motorsport continues later on Friday, with Practice Two starting at 4pm live on Sky Sports F1.

More to follow…