Opening Practice: Alonso on top

It was an incident-filled first session as the McLaren of Fernando Alonso topped the time sheets at the opening free practice session in Monaco earlier today with team-mate Lewis Hamilton not far behind. Ferrari didn’t have a good run with Raikkonen winding up in fifth and Massa eighth.

It was Hamilton who set the early pace for the session with his first flying lap being a full 1.5 seconds faster than Alonso. Hamilton has a lot of history at the street circuit having won all three of his previous races at the track in junior formula races. Howver, on lap 14, a broken starter motor caused him to stop. A piece of debris made it’s way into the gearbox forcing the mechanics to remove the floor of the MP4-22 to fix the problem.

Chrisijan Albers in the Spyker car also had a poor session which saw his car causing a red flag situation as it came to a halt on the Tabac corner.

Massa upped the pace and put in a storming time before Hamilton responded with a lap time of 1:17.601. Things stayed this way for a while until Alonso put on a set of super-soft Bridgestone tyres, enabling him to set a time of 1:16.973, six-tenths clear of the rest of the field, a place he remained in throughout the rest of the session.

Nick Heidfeld had a minor off over the chicane but did not damage his car and clinched third spot overall, just ahead of the Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella who ended his session prematurely when he touched a kerb at Sainte Devote, sending him into the barriers.

Unofficial Monaco Thursday Free Practice Times (Session 1)

1  Alonso  McLaren    1:16.973 
2  Hamilton  McLaren    1:17.601 
3  Heidfeld  BMW    1:17.616  
4  Fisichella  Renault    1:17.758  
5  Raikkonen  Ferrari   1:17.918  
6  Webber  Red Bull    1:17.956 
7  Rosberg  WilliamsF1    1:18.074 
8  Massa  Ferrari    1:18.189  
9  Kubica  BMW    1:18.675 
10  Barrichello  Honda    1:18.676 
11  Wurz  WilliamsF1    1:18.869  
12  Speed  Toro Rosso    1:18.967  
13  Coulthard  Red Bull    1:19.095 
14  Sato  Super Aguri    1:19.203 
15  Liuzzi  Toro Rosso    1:19.285  
16  Kovalainen  Renault    1:19.321 
17  Button  Honda    1:19.332  
18  Davidson  Super Aguri    1:19.337  
19  Trulli  Toyota    1:19.496  
20  R Schumacher  Toyota    1:19.799  
21  Sutil  Spyker    1:21.634  
22  Albers  Spyker   1:23.235