Monaco Grand Prix: Final free practice topped by Sebastian Vettel

Final practice for the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix topped by Sebastian Vettel.

The rain that caused limited running on Thursday afternoon had cleared away from the principality, meaning Saturday morning was awash with noise rather than rain as Formula One roared around Monte Carlo. And after an hour of running, it was Vettel with his head held higher than the rest after topping the third and final free practice session.

Despite the rain causing limited running on Thursday afternoon, Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest lap when the track was sufficiently dry. Lewis also posted the fastest time in the opening practice session to head into the weekend the fastest man in Formula One.

But regardless of what happened on Thursday, there was no running on Friday and come Saturday, Ricciardo was the first man to head out. Unlike the Aussie, Carlos Sainz decided to remain on track after the quick installation lap and posted the first time of the session with a 1:23.987.

Over the opening five minutes, over half of the field had posted a time with Lewis Hamilton taking the lead. Interestingly, Lewis had opted to run the supersoft tyres from the off rather than the soft, prime compound of Pirelli tyres. Given the loss of running on Thursday, was a somewhat wise choice but also as Pirelli had provided the teams with either an extra set of soft or supersoft tyres for the session.

By the end of Lewis’ opening stint on the supersoft tyres, he had completed 9 laps while lowering the benchmark time to 1:16.705. On the same compound of tyres, Rosberg completed the same amount of laps however his fastest lap was half a second down on his team-mate.

As a result of the other teams, bar Manor-Marussia, still running the soft tyres, the gap back to third was almost two seconds. Even when Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel eventually took to the track and displaced Kvyat from the top three.

As the session got into its full flow and more drivers began to switch onto the supersoft tyres, Raikkonen improved on his personal best to edge with one tenth of a second to second place Nico Rosberg. However after thirty minutes of the session had passed and Kimi had set his best time, he rode the curb at turn one and the rear stepped out. After the loss of control, the rear slammed into the wall at St Devote and the impact instantly punctured the rear left tyre bringing out the red flag to recover the Ferrari.

Once the Ferrari had been cleared from the track, the action was immediately back underway. But it wasn’t long before another driver put his car in the barrier, with Max Verstappen loosing the rear at turn 19 and taking off his rear wing end plate in doing so. The Toro Rosso driver was able to get back to his garage, but left the team with some work to do ahead of qualifying later today.

Away from the crashes, Hamilton’s early benchmark time became a target for Vettel and Rosberg towards the end of the session. Firstly, Sebastian took a stab at going P1 but his best time was only able to get within two tenths of Lewis. As for Rosberg, his best time moved him within one tenth of Lewis but Hamilton’s time remained the time to beat.

Later on into the session, and after a quick change onto new supersoft tyres, Sebastian Vettel blistered home a new fastest lap of the session and this time moved ahead of Lewis. But it was not just by one tenth or two, Vettel stormed into P1 by half a second. Even when Rosberg next came across the line, and beat Hamilton’s time, Nico remained two tenths back from Vettel’s now benchmark time.

And when the chequered flag fell, Vettel’s time was enough to keep him at the top. Rosberg finished the session second, Hamilton third, while Raikkonen ended the session in sixth following his earlier crash.

Daniel Ricciardo kept the Red Bull towards the front and within one second of Vettel, while Button was the highest McLaren in eighth.

Position Driver Gap Laps
1 Vettel 1:16.143 27
2 Rosberg +0.218 31
3 Hamilton +0.562 31
4 Ricciardo +0.977 26
5 Sainz +1.113 39
6 Raikkonen +1.258 11
7 Kvyat +1.328 28
8 Button +1.624 28
9 Verstappen +1.645 23
10 Grosjean +1.663 28
11 Perez +1.689 30
12 Maldonado +1.813 28
13 Hulkenberg +1.959 32
14 Alonso +2.054 26
15 Bottas +2.069 29
16 Massa +2.099 32
17 Nasr +2.624 38
18 Ericsson +3.126 37
19 Stevens +4.950 31
20 Merhi +6.082 30