Monaco FP3: Red Bulls fly, Rivals nowhere, Hamilton crashes

Monaco FP3: Red Bulls fly, Rivals nowhere, Hamilton crashes

Red Bull dominated the final practice session of the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, as their rivals faltered, while Lewis Hamilton crashed in the dying moments of the session.

FP3 in Monaco turned into a competition between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez for the fastest times as Ferrari and Aston Martin failed to come close, while Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton were in the spotlight, not because of their improved form, but the Briton’s crash at the end of the session.

Verstappen ended the session fastest of all, followed by Perez in second, while Lance Stroll was the third fastest in the Aston Martin after a low key session for teammate Fernando Alonso.

With many driver stuck in traffic on their attempts to improve their times, it would be a bit tough to predict how the grid would shape up for Sunday’s race, the only certainty being: Red Bull are yet again the team to beat.

Buildup towards FP3

If Friday in Monaco showed us something, it is that Red Bull and Max Verstappen still have the edge despite expectations that the nature of the street circuit might slow them down a bit, and based on FP1, many thought that might be true as the reigning Formula 1 Champion was not happy with his RB19, only for that to change after some setup changes that meant he hit the ground running for the afternoon session.

But Charles Leclerc was only 0.065s slower than Verstappen at the end of FP2, which make one wonder how much or if the Dutchman is holding back, or whether the Monegasque can pull off some more pace out of his SF-23, keeping in mind his admission that he wasn’t happy with it.

On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Carlos Sainz seemed to be the faster of the Scuderia drivers, but then ended up in the barriers pushing too much in FP2. Will that dent his confidence for the rest of the weekend?

Fernando Alonso seemed to be in a good mood after Friday’s running was over, and is fancying a shot at pole, despite complaining several times about the traffic, which might prove to be a major player in Qualifying.

Mercedes remain an unknown, despite Lewis Hamilton showing some flashes of speed, while George Russell was way off the pace, so it would be interesting to see how they both fare in Qualifying with their B-Spec W14.

Monaco FP3 session highlights

It was a slow start to FP3, as with over five minutes into the session, only three drivers were out on track, but soon that changed.

Less than ten minutes to the session, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine stopped in the middle of the tunnel, the driver reporting loss of power bringing out a brief Yellow flag.

The Frenchman was able to get going and slowly drove back to the pits.

Sky Sports F1 revealed that McLaren broke the curfew last nigh to check Lando Norris’ power unit, the Briton ending FP2 fifth fastest, but with a problem on his MCL60’s power unit. The team did not change the unit though.

With 15 minutes elapsed from FP3, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell remained in the pits, no times set for the trio.

In the meantime, Sergio Perez was leading the timing screens, that is until Verstappen hit the track and went to the top, a whopping 0.583s faster than the Mexican, from the first time of asking.

Fernando Alonso soon bettered Verstappen by a tenth, only for Perez to retake the lead a tenth fastest than the Spaniard, as the track seemed to improve.

Charles Leclerc reported to his team that he might have touched the wall at Turn 14, but was assured the data showed all was fine.

Verstappen had a moment at Turn 1, kissing the wall with his rear right tyre, but survived and kept going, while Leclerc seemed to continue his struggles with his Ferrari.

The Monegasque almost lost the rear of his car at the swimming pool chicane; he reported back over the team radio: “Can you see what is happening just before the first S of the Swimming Pool? I think we are bottoming like crazy there.”

“We need to change the car. I have no control of the car,” he added before heading back to the pits.

George Russell also had a moment at Rascasse, and reported a “hefty hit of the wall” to the Mercedes pit wall.

Fernando Alonso who was flying under the radar in FP3 had a big moment at Turn 1, his AMR23 sliding as he started a flying lap.

Kevin Magnussen brought our the Yellow flags as he went straight at Saint Devote. He made it back on track only to stop moments later with a problem on his Haas, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car.

With five minutes remaining, Lewis Hamilton binned his Mercedes at Mirabeau, bringing out the Red flags and ending the session.

How they finished

Max Verstappen set the fastest time in FP3, a 1:12.776 but was followed ever so closely by teammate Sergio Perez in second place, only 0.073s behind, the Mexican seemingly awakening after a below par performance on Friday.

Lance Stroll was the faster Aston Martin this time around, third fastest and 0.166s off the pace, while Fernando Alonso was down in 14th at the end of the final practice session.

Carlos Sainz took fourth fastest for Ferrari, almost half a second off the pace, while his former McLaren teammate Lando Norris was fifth, 0.135s further down the road.

Pierre Gasly did a decent job to go fifth fastest in the Alpine and was 0.677s away from the top with Charles Leclerc, struggling in his Ferrari, seventh, 0.022s behind the Frenchman.

Lewis Hamilton posted the eighth fastest time in his updated Mercedes before crashing it with five minutes remaining from FP3. George Russell was 11th fastest.

Esteban Ocon survived an early issue with his car, and posted the ninth fastest time, 0.720s away from the benchmark, with Valtteri Bottas rounding off the top ten, 0.025s behind the Alpine.

FP3 Official Results

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