The World Series by Renault had the honour of being first on track to open the 67th edition of the Monaco Grand Prix, with 45 minutes of group testing in which the drivers attempted to get as many laps as possible in order to get a handle on the hallowed street circuit.

Spa racewinner James Walker eventually claimed the quickest time for P1 Motorsport, ahead of series newcomer - and Red Bull test driver - Brendon Hartley, whose Monaco debut with Tech 1 Racing bodes well for the rest of the weekend. Walker's P1 team-mate Daniil Move posted the third fastest time.

As the first discipline to take to the track, the drivers experienced constantly changing grip conditions, with most starting out on old tyres and running long stints to get familiarised - or re-familiarised - with the very unique track. The day got off to a bad start for Draco's Marco Barba, however, the Spaniard hitting the barriers hard at the tight Mirabeau right-hander.

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Countryman Miguel Molina was first to clock a significant time, the Ultimate driver putting in a 1min 33.429secs lap, but quickly seeing it improved upon as three-time 2009 racewinner Marcos Martinez (Pons Racing) and then Adrian Valles (Epsilon Euskadi) went quicker. Molina, however, wasn't done and, shortly before pitting to change tyres, retook control by clocking 1min 30.945secs.

Some drivers, particularly the rookies, opted to fit new rubber during the session, while others - perhaps with more experienced heads - opted to stick to old tyres. RC Motorsport's Filip Salaquadra went to top of the timing screens briefly, before being knocked off by Carlin's Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Zaugg ( Racing) and Molina, who refused to be denied first place.

By the end of the session, however, Walker had worked his way to the front, and the Briton had the final word of the day, as his best lap, a 1min 28.290secs effort, proved too good for the rest.

"The early laps always take you by surprise, there's no grip at all for the first twenty minutes," he reported, "We had a minor alert with a sensor in mid-session, but nothing serious, although we fitted new tyres, which we hadn't intended to do at the outset. The track is going to change a lot, and the behaviour will be totally different in qualifying on Saturday."

The P1 driver, buoyed by his Spa success last time out, led from Hartley, Move, Zaugg and Alguersuari, with the Kiwi quickly falling in love with Monaco.

"This is a wonderful circuit," he enthused, "I've already driven at Macau, and that is still my favourite circuit, but Monaco is on the same level... The first laps are very impressive - I took my time to get my bearings and learn the track, but it all went perfectly. This session was very encouraging."

The series will have a full house for the first time this season, with all 26 potential entries competing for the first time this season. In addition to the arrival of KMP Group/SG Formula, with Jules Bianchi and Anton Nebilitskiy in the seats previously under the auspices of KTR, other line-up changes saw Monaco driver Stefano Coletti join Prema Powerteam, while John Martin replaces Nebilitskiy at Comtec, now with Max Chilton as team-mate.

"It's an incredible sensation to drive at these speeds in the same streets where I drive every day," Coletti admitted, "I wasn't doing badly at the start of the session, but unfortunately when I tried to up the pace, I got caught out braking into Sainte D?vote. I've had time to get to know the track, I can't wait for qualifying now."

KMP Group/SG Formula, meanwhile, also had a troubled start to its debut season, with Bianchi immobilised by clutch problems and Nebilitskiy joining Coletti in finding the barriers.