Lewis Hamilton rather predictably set the early pace at Monaco during a muggy Friday morning practice session, but it was Max Verstappen who impressed most on his first outing on the famous street circuit.
With two sets of soft tyres available to each driver, the first set were used to dry a damp track in the opening half hour before drivers went out on their second set for quicker laps in the remaining hour. Hamilton completed 48 laps in total and slowly improved his time to a 1:18.750 before his tyres started to lose their bite.
Verstappen, however, waited until the final minute of the session and made the most of the improving track conditions to get within 0.149s of Hamilton's best time. On a track where confidence is key, Verstappen built his throughout the session over 40 laps before finding a gap in the traffic and attacking the circuit in his Toro Rosso. Assuming the weekend stays dry, lap times will plummet with each session, but that shouldn't take away from Verstappen's performance on a track that he has never raced at before.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo also set a late flying lap and briefly held second place before being usurped by Verstappen. He was fastest of all in the first sector before losing time to Hamilton in sectors two and three to finish the lap 0.336s down on the Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel was fourth in the Ferrari, but the unusual order continued in the top ten, with Carlos Sainz fifth fastest in the second Toro Rosso ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus.
Daniil Kvyat was seventh fastest ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in eighth and Nico Rosberg in ninth, 1.012s off the pace of his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton. Rosberg had a slightly scrappy session and kissed the wall on the exit of the re-profiled Tabac corner midway through. He lost the rear of the car in the middle of the relatively quick left hander and then nudged the outside barrier. No damage was done, apart from to his confidence, and he soon returned to the track after a quick once over in the pits.
Rosberg was not the only driver to make a mistake, with a whole host of drivers going straight on at Sainte Devote and making use of the run off. None tangled with the unforgiving barriers, but on a more committed lap later in the weekend such mistakes might not be let off so easily.
Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten as Williams made its usual slow start to the weekend, with Fernando Alonso 11th after trying to wring as much performance as possible from the McLaren. He was just over two tenths quicker than his team-mate Jenson Button, who spent the first hour in the garage and completed just 15 laps in total. Romain Grosjean was 13th and held a 0.4s gap to the Force Indias, Saubers and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, who split Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.
The two Manors took up their usual position at the bottom of the timesheets, over two seconds off the Sauber of Ericsson and nearly five seconds off the pace at the front.