MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Lewis Hamilton started the Monaco Grand Prix weekend at the top of the timesheets after setting the fastest ever lap of the famous street circuit.
It was the first time the new, wider 2017 cars have driven the streets of Monte-Carlo, but while the times were quick, the session was relatively drama free. At the start of the 90 minutes, Hamilton eased his way into the session using the super-soft tyres before switching to the ultra-soft compound after the first 40 minutes. As he warmed up the softest rubber in Pirelli's range, the timing screens started to light up and it wasn't long before his best effort had dropped below Daniel Ricciardo's pole position time of last year.
"The most important thing is that you have to learn to walk before you run," Hamilton said in the build up to the Monaco weekend. "You have to build up to the pace so that, by the time you work up to that second run in Q3, you're at 100%."
Stood trackside, everything looked calm and collected in the cockpit of car 44. Each lap he eased his Mercedes closer to the barriers, but without ever looking out of control. His best time of 1:13.425 will no doubt be beaten by the end of the second practice session as more rubber is laid down on the track surface, but for an FP1 session it was staggeringly quick and further proof of the speed of the latest breed of Formula One cars.
Title rival Sebastian Vettel was second fastest with a 1:13.621, 0.196s off Hamilton's best effort. Max Verstappen's session was interrupted by a technical problem that left his car on its stands in the garage for roughly 30 minutes, but he was able to rejoin the action before the 90 minutes were up and set a 1:13.771.
Valtteri Bottas, who appeared to be riding a fine line between precision and destruction at the top of Casino Square, was fourth fastest, 0.366s off his teammate's best effort. Ricciardo, who said on Wednesday that he is hoping to complete the "unfinished business" of last year's near victory, was fifth fastest ahead of a remarkable lap by Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat using the slower super-soft tyres.
Kimi Raikkonen was seventh on the ultra-softs, 0.053s slower than Kvyat and 0.543s slower than Ferrari teammate Vettel. The top ten was rounded out by Force India's Sergio Perez, Kvyat's teammate Carlos Sainz and the second Force India of Esteban Ocon.
Jenson Button was 14th fastest on his return to the cockpit of an F1 car as he got back up to speed in the role of Fernando Alonso's replacement this weekend. He was just 0.141s off teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in 12th, proving that he has not forgotten how to turn in a quick lap around the streets of his home town.
The two Haas cars were mixed in with the McLarens, but Romain Grosjean in 15th looked lairy throughout the session and took a trip to the run off at Sainte Devote in the closing stages. The bottom five was made up of Lance Stroll, who is making his Monaco debut this weekend and was 0.978s off Williams teammate Massa, the two Renaults and the two Saubers.