Final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix topped by Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari one-two.
After taking the wrong set-up route on Thursday, final practice on Saturday morning handed Mercedes their last chance to find the right route to pole at Monaco.
Mercedes throughout the year have appeared to have had a slower car than Ferrari when in the low-speed corners.
Partly, this lack of pace for the Silver Arrows comes thanks to the team’s long wheelbase – giving Hamilton and Bottas a less agile vehicle than their title rivals at Ferrari.
But alongside the long wheelbase, Mercedes were struggling during Thursday practice when it came to traction and switching the Pirelli tyres on as well. Meaning the speed Hamilton and Bottas were losing through the corners was added with a lack of speed out of the corners. Along with a prolonged tyre warm-up period that will only take more life out of the tyres come qualifying.
Come the end of the day, Mercedes’ wrong route on set-up meant their lack of pace not only allowed the Ferrari’s to lap faster – as Vettel become the first driver ever to lap under 1 minute 13 on the streets of Monte Carlo – but for Red Bull and even Toro Rosso to lap faster too. Mercedes’ lack of pace also came after Hamilton topped FP1.
Tyre life, though, will not be a true concern for the race at least. For the ultrasoft tyres Pirelli has brought to Monaco are capable of enduring the entire Grand Prix distance on a single set thanks to the less-abrasive surface of the streets.
With that, the soft compound – the hardest Pirelli have brought to Monte Carlo – are extremely unlikely to be considered even under an early safety car. Yet regardlessly, they were briefly fitted come the start of FP3 due to the green track returning after a day without running.
The start of FP3 saw a hoard of drivers head immediately out onto the track for the hour-long session. Breaking the silence with the sound of V6 hybrid engines, and breaking onto the leaderboard through the Ferrari power units powering Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.
Down at McLaren, though, was sombre news for Jenson Button. As the man stepping in for Fernando Alonso while the Spaniard competes at the Indy500 has been handed a 15-place grid penalty thanks to enforced changes to his power unit.
Honda had detected there was an issue with the MGU-H fitted in Button’s car and were forced to change that element along with the turbocharger. And as Fernando had already taken four of those elements so far this season, Button taking a fifth means the Briton must take the penalty hit at the race McLaren had best hopes of securing points at.
After the Sauber duo of Ericsson and Wehrlein broke onto the leaderboard first, their benchmark of 1:16.075 laid no marker down for Valtteri Bottas as the Silver Arrow came across the line on an initial 1:15.249 before taking a second off his time moments after.
As the track continued to regain the grip washed away by Monaco’s nightlife, Kimi Raikkonen moved Thursday’s top manufacturer back on top as he slipped into the 1 minute 13s to better Bottas.
Bottas, who now had set a new faster lap than any time the Mercedes had achieved during the opening two sessions of the weekend. And a lap time Hamilton could yet better as the Briton moved Forced India down to fourth and fifth as he nipped into third.
Sebastian Vettel’s first true time of the day further demoted the Force India duo down the leaderboard as he too slipped in behind his team-mate and the Mercedes’ pair. With Hamilton now fastest of all on a 1:13.2.
Hamilton’s time atop the leaderboard, however, was short-lived. With Kimi Raikkonen demoting the Mercedes as quickly as the Mercedes got there, and edging the benchmark closer to a 1 minute 12 lap time.
The only man to achieve a lap under 1 minute 13 during Thursday practice was the pace setting Sebastian Vettel – with the German posting a 1:12.720. A time that remained the fastest of the weekend until Vettel himself posted a 1:12.395 after a string of flying laps to move his personal best time up the leaderboard and further lower the track record.
While Vettel increased his pace lap-on-lap, Verstappen too found time to his previous best to move up the board and break the order by splitting the Mercedes’ with a time three-tenths better than Hamilton.
Things, though, were not perfect for Verstappen. With the Red Bull driver reporting that his car “just doesn’t turn anymore” and Valtteri Bottas bettering his best lap to move back ahead of the Red Bull.
But while Verstappen still lapped the Monaco streets, Esteban Ocon – a driver competing at Monaco this weekend for the very first time – found himself in the barrier on the exit of the swimming pool chicane.
As Ocon made they right hand turn for the chicane, the Frenchman clipped the inside barrier with his front-right tyre, snapping his suspension. So when the Force India driver attempted to turn left, the car continued straight on and buried itself deep in the barrier. Leaving Ocon’s mechanics with work to do ahead of qualifying.
Once the Force India was cleared and the marshals exited the track, racing speeds were returned to for the final minutes. Seeing Ferrari return to the track for participation in practice starts. But not until after Ricciardo’s Red Bull was cleared.
Ricciardo suffered a late brake-by-wire failure coming at the end of the session, leaving the peddle going straight to the floor without the braking force required and forcing the Australian to go straight on at Sainte Devote.
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||27||1’12.940||0.545|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||24||1’13.392||0.997|
|7||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||27||1’13.400||1.005|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||23||1’13.563||1.168|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India||23||1’13.936||1.541|
|13||Esteban Ocon||Force India||21||1’14.072||1.677|