Final free practice at the Monaco Grand Prix topped by Sebastian Vettel.
As the final hour of practice around the streets of Monte Carlo came to a close, Vettel was atop the timesheet. Sebastian held a narrow gap of just one hundredth of a second gap over Hamilton to be the fastest man around the Principality of Monaco, while Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen once again showed Red Bull had pace to show.
For Thursday practice, Mercedes were among many to heavily run on the new, ultrasoft Pirelli compound of tyres. But while they were gathering data on the softest compound available, Red Bull shocked many to top the FP2 leaderboard with Ricciardo.
Daniel had onboard his Bull the new, upgraded Renault power unit. But the gain the manufacturer and constructor would have expected may not have been so substantial that they would have topped a timesheet by their biggest margin in recent years.
Part of the gain though can be put down to the new, ultrasoft compound tyres as Mercedes struggled to get into the right operating window. Knowing this, the team hit the circuit early on Saturday morning to continue their programme with the new rubber.
Mercedes though were not first out, with Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean getting the Haas out early along with Raikkonen in the Ferrari. Early pace from the Finn also saw Kimi take P1 by more than a second as drivers like Rosberg and Hamilton took an extra warm up lap.
On the back of their extra warm up laps, Mercedes edged ahead of Raikkonen by one tenth and five hundredths of a second with Hamilton and Rosberg respectively. Although their early times were split by Vettel, who subsequently lapped the streets of Monaco just shy of four tenths faster than Hamilton had.
As times began to be faster and faster, Rosberg left Hamilton and Raikkonen by more than half a second as he and FP2 topping, Daniel Ricciardo, sat in the low 1:15s. Daniel though dropped Nico by four tenths as Rosberg re-emerged from the pits, although his previous best was now slower than Verstappen’s.
Palmer meanwhile was sat in the Renault garage after clipping the barrier earlier on, breaking his rear-wing endplate. Jolyon was lucky to escape with no more than damage to his rear-wing after he lost control on entry to the swimming pool chicane, spinning and just clipping the barrier as he came to a rest.
As varying programmes began to be carried out, the battle for the fastest lap calmed down. Although as Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Force India and Toro Rosso all had both drivers in the top 10, Vettel dropped the hammer to rocket to the top, nine-tenths of a second clear of team-mate Raikkonen.
Yellow flags were then briefly waved at Massenet and Ste Devote. Firstly, at the top of Beau Rivage, Max Verstappen heavily locked up his front-left tyre as he arrived at the crest of climb. The lock up though sent him towards the Massenet barrier, which he kissed softly enough to just break the endplate of his front wing rather than taking more substantial suspension damage. Ste Devote’s yellow flags then briefly were waved as Gutierrez ran deep into the first corner.
As the session clock approached zero, the track became a hive of activity and a hive of traffic as Hamilton found out. Lewis though was still able to move ahead of the Red Bulls and his team-mate. However a deficit of just under two hundredths of a second left Vettel atop the timesheet as more drivers found themselves utilising the run off at Ste Devote.
One final driver to run deep at the first corner was Renault’s Kevin Magnussen. K-Mag, unlike others, could not however return to the track as he sat facing the tyre barrier. Once out of the car, the marshals were able to remove the Renault from the firing line, but it was not long before another driver was taking to the run off area.
With the session’s end interrupted by yellow flags, Sebastian Vettel’s 1:14.650 ended the hour as the fastest time closely followed by Hamilton’s best. Rosberg, one tenth back, narrowly bettered the Red Bulls. While the difference in Ricciardo’s best lap and Magnussen’s show how far Renault are behind the front-runners in terms of chassis given both Daniel and Kevin have the new, Renault power units for the weekend.