F1- Sergio Perez
Red Bull's Sergio Perez in action during first day's free practice at Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Monte Carlo: Sergio Perez set a sizzling pace round the streets of Monte Carlo under crisp, blue skies on Thursday in the first practice session for the fifth event of the Grand Prix season.

The iconic race was cancelled last season due to the pandemic, and resumes as restrictions in Monaco and surrounding France are slackened.

At the wheel of the second Red Bull, Mexican driver Perez zipped around the 3.337km circuit in 1min 12.487sec. Ferrari new boy Carlos Sainz was second and Max Verstappen in the other Red Bull was third.

World champion Lewis Hamilton was fifth in the morning session in his Mercedes, just behind Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri.

Briton Hamilton, targeting his 99th win on Sunday, leads Dutchman Verstappen by 14 points after four races in the chase for the drivers crown.

Local boy Charles Leclerc was last for Ferrari after gearbox problems. Double world champion Fernando Alonso was 13th ot of the 20 drivers in the opening session for Alpine.

Monaco’s iconic street circuit welcomed 7,500 fans to its grandstands for practice.

Free Practice first session

1. Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) 1min 12.487sec (36 laps), 2. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) 1:12.606 (32), 3. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) 1:12.648 (39), 4. Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:12.929 (37), 5. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:12.995 (34), 6. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:13.131 (36), 7. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:13.236 (31), 8. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:13.732 (33), 9. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:13.746 (39) 10. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:14.081 (31), 11. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:14.090 (33), 12. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:14.106 (27), 13. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault) 1:14.205 (37), 14. Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1:14.268 (41) 15. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:14.281 (36), 16. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1:14.320 (37), 17. Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari) 1:14.616 (33), 18. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1:14.801 (35), 19. George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1:14.840 (35), 20. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:19.618 (4).