So, the year’s most traditionally opulent weekend is upon us. As well as the history, the parties and diamonds springing up in all manner of places (McLaren steering wheels, apparently) most of the fun in Monaco involves watching the cars pick their way round the twisty street of the principality. It’s one of the only races during the season where it feels like the drivers are being properly tested.

The first practice session of this year’s Grand Prix kicked the weekend off in style, without really revealing too much about what we can expect during qualifying and the race, apart from the fact the usual suspects will be there or there abouts.

Will he still be happy on Sunday evening? credit: Alex Comerford

The morning session was conducted in lovely sunshine and ended with Alonso topping the time sheets, only a smidgen ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull and the Renault of Robert Kubica. Indeed, for a large portion of the session, Alonso was more than half a second up on everyone else, which bodes well for the Ferrari team.

In other news, last week’s winner Mark Webber came home in fourth, a third of a second shy of his team mate, Felipe Massa fifth and Michael Schumacher sixth. The two McLarens were line astern in seventh and eighth place, with the top ten rounded out by Sutil Force India and Buemi’s Toro Rosso.

So, with both Red Bull cars in the top four, does this make a mockery of Mark Webber’s statement that the Red Bull car is designed for all the other tracks and not Monaco? It seems they might not have a second over all the other cars but, you know what, they’ll probably manage to make it work.

One person who didn’t have a stellar session was Nico Rosberg, who spent much of his time in the Mercedes garage having his car taken apart and put back together again, managing less than half the laps of most of the other top drivers. Karun Chandhok had a very graceful spin at Massenet, just about avoiding hitting anything to the great relief, one imagines, of the Hispania mechanics. There’s always one, isn’t there? Kamui Kobayashi, true to form, came out of the Swimming Pool section, bumped rather too enthusiastically over the kerbs and bunged it into the wall, losing his front wing in the process.

Can this man do it again? credit: Alex Comerford

Turning to matters of more general interest, both the Ferrari and Sauber teams have opted to remove the F-Duct device from their cars this weekend, with only McLaren choosing to run theirs. Obviously McLaren think their drivers can make it work, although the run up to Casino Square and out of the tunnel are really the only places they could probably use it.

The Mercedes cars have reverted to the short wheelbase version; this isn’t a reaction to anything from last weekend, but apparently was always the plan, so it’ll be interesting to see if Rosberg can make it work for him later in the weekend. In other change-from-Spain news, neither Christian Klien nor current BBC favourite Paul di Resta featured in this morning’s session, as the Hispania and Force India teams sought to give their race drivers the maximum amount of time on the still very green track. Probably a good idea.

It really looks like it could be tight at the top, with qualifying vitally important. It’s going to be a scrum and we at Badger welcome it. F1 should be difficult, and we sense it’s certainly going to be.