Monaco GP FP3: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen edges closer

Monaco GP FP3: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen edges closer

Monaco GP FP3: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen edges closer

Charles Leclerc heads into qualifying later today as favorite for pole after topping the third and final practice for the 2024 Monaco GP.

Leclerc seemed to be able to extract pace from his Ferrari quite easily, while Max Verstappen in the Red Bull was having to work hard to drag his calcitrant RB20 up the order.

Verstappen ended second fastest after a monster lap after which he radioed informing them he would end up in the fence if he did another lap like that.

And while Red Bull improved a bit overnight, their only hope for a front row let alone pole would be if Verstappen delivers something special in qualifying.

Behind Leclerc and Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton was third fastest as Mercedes continued their strong form in Monaco.

As for McLaren, Oscar Piastri was the faster driver, fourth overall but way off the pace in FP3. While McLaren avoided performance runs on Friday, they were expected to show some more pace in FP3 but did not. Sandbagging, or actual trouble?

The top ten were monopolized by Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, and McLaren with Yuki Tsunoda and Fernando Alonso the only intruders, ninth and tenth fastest respectively.

Buildup towards FP3

FP1 and FP2 on Friday offered an interesting perspective on the F1 pecking order this weekend in Monaco, with Ferrari emerging as fastest in the hands of Leclerc, while Mercedes with Hamilton surprised by being the second best.

McLaren did not seem to give away their true form, so there is this niggling feeling that the Papaya, sorry Yellow and Green cars have still more pace to show, and FP3 should be the best time to do that before qualifying.

Red Bull and Verstappen, on the other hand, are in trouble and way off the pace, the Dutchman even suggesting it is a car design issue that is hindering their Monaco weekend and not the setup.

Both Verstappen and Sergio Perez suffered with the ride of the RB20s not to mention a front end that won’t bite, but Red Bull usually improve overnight from Friday to Saturday. They did so in Imola, so can they repeat that this weekend.

Some serious simulator work by Sebastian Buemi saved the day in Imola, but Red Bull’s sim drivers are in China racing in Formula E, so will the reigning champions recover.

There were plenty of close calls with the barriers on Friday, but no driver actually crashed, so will some someone do that today? And who will that be?

FP3 Session Highlights

The session started in clear conditions track temperatures as high as 47 degrees Celsius with the air temperature at 22 degrees.

Despite being the final hour of practice before qualifying, the drivers were not in a hurry to go to the track, Russell being the first.

George Russell who struggled with his steering all Friday, reported on his out-lap that the steering feels different. He didn’t say whether it was good or bad though…

Russell soon reported further when he returned to the pits saying: “There’s no vibrations, which is obviously good. The steering is very light turning left and heavier turning right.”.

Seven minutes into the session and the action was scarce as a lonely Kevin Magnussen was out their doing some running, everyone else in the garage.

Less than 15 minutes into the session, and the inevitable happened as finally one driver hit the barriers hard and  broke his car and the honor went to Valtteri Bottas.

The Fin hit the wall hard at the exit of the swimming pool breaking his front right suspension and bringing out the Red flag. His rear right also took a hit.

The session was resumed with 42 minutes remaining, and this time all the drivers rushed out on track for a change with Soft tyres on from some qualifying runs.

Soon there was a brief Yellow flag caused by Magnussen locking up hard into Turn 5, ending up in the run-off area.

Hamilton soon does the same but at Turn 1 and reverses back on the track. He reported: “Tyres are dead mate.”

Worth noting the traffic which was crazy as all the drivers were trying to run their qualifying simulations, Verstappen radioing: “My god.”

With 33 minutes, another Yellow flag was out in sector one. It was caused by Piastri who locked up and went into the run-off at Sainte Devote. Lando Norris soon has a huge lock up at the same place but stays on track.

Perez had a close moment with the remaining Stake F1 Team Sauber of Zhou Guanyu , just missing the green car informing the team over the radio with a not so complimentary message for the Chinese driver.

Verstappen was all out there giving it full beans, getting ever so close to the barriers at the exit if the swimming pool chicane, but was over two and half tenths off Leclerc, who soon extends his advantage to four tenths.

Verstappen’s engineer radioed: “Solid Lap.” The Dutchman’s response was telling: “I know where we can gain time, it’s just not possible. We know why.”

Hamilton soon had a hair-raising moment when on hot lap, taking too much kerb at the swimming pool section, his Mercedes airborne, but just manages to avoid the barrier after landing…

Alonso soon joined the top runners, posting the second fastest time behind Leclerc, just over a tenth, with new Soft tyres, 17 minutes from the end.

After that, more drivers bolted new Soft tyres on their car for some more qualifying simulations. It’s all about qualifying in Monaco.

Norris and Russell will be investigated after FP3 for a moment coming out of the tunnel and down to the chicane. Norris was not happy with his Mercedes counterpart.

Tsunoda also had a close call with a slow-going Perez inside the tunnel, the Japanese driver barely avoiding the Red Bull.

We leave you with this photo of Leclerc that says it all…

How they finished

Leclerc was 0.197s fastest that Verstappen after posting a 1:11.369 to lead the pack at the end of FP3, again showing Ferrari’s advantage this weekend.

Hamilton was third fastest in the Mercedes, 0.341s slower than Leclerc and 0.191s ahead of Piastri, fourth in the McLaren.

Perez was fifth fastest in the other Red Bull, 0.554s off the pace and 0.045s ahead of Russell, the Mercedes driver sixth fastest.

Carlos Sainz was just 0.002s off his teammate at one point in FP3, but in the end the Spaniard was seventh fastest and 0.610s far from Leclerc.

Norris was eighth fastest in the #4 McLaren, over six tenths off the benchmark time and 0.003s ahead of Tsunoda in ninth.

Alonso was tenth in the Aston Martin, 0.718s off the pace.

Monaco GP FP3 Classification