Ferrari's Leclerc remains on top in Monaco GP final practice

© XPB 

Charles Leclerc topped Saturday’s final dress rehearsal in Monaco, the Ferrari charger setting once again a blistering pace ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying.

However, Max Verstappen was able to inch closer to his Scuderia rival, the Dutchman ringing the neck of his Red Bull to get within 0.197s of Leclerc.

Lewis Hamilton clocked in a strong third, 0.341s adrift, but the Mercedes ace appeared once again quite comfortable at the wheel of his W15 silver arrow.

  • Results to follow…

Sunny and pleasant conditions were in order as drivers took to the track, with air temperatures at 21.7 °C and a forecast predicted only a slim 10% chance of rain.

George Russell was the first man out, the Mercedes driver running at the outset on Pirelli’s C5 soft tyre – the softest compound in the manufacturer’s range by the way – and which will be the rubber of choice for qualifying later this afternoon.

But installations laps were the norm before the field dug in and got down to business. However, there were few takers in the opening 15 minutes, save for Valtteri Bottas whose first flyer ended with a right front wheel askew following a brush with the barrier at the chicane. The would be the costly end of the Finn’s session.

The mishap triggered a brief red flag as the stricken Sauber was rolled out of harm’s way.

As the track went green, there was a rush to resume the action and Russell finally put the first benchmark on the board. But the Briton’s early best on the softs was quickly bettered by Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, while Leclerc settled into second.

Piastri then went top with a 1m12.875s, but getting a clean lap in was seemingly a difficult exercise given the congestion. As Leclerc recouped second, Kevin Magnussen moved up to third but the Dane endured a heart-stopping moment when stumbled on a slow-moving pair of car’s in the tunnel.

As the session neared its halfway mark, Leclerc moved into the top position with a 1m12.521s. The Monegasque lowered the latter as he pressed on while Verstappen went second fastest ahead of Tsunoda and Piastri.

Leclerc continued to trigger purple sectors as he leaned on the kerbs, improving his best to 1m12.092. Hamilton was on course to tackle the Ferrari driver’s lap time but a slight misjudgment on the exit of the chicane ruined the seven-time world champion’s lap, although he fortunately escaped a crushing blow with barriers.

With 20 minutes to go, Sainz briefly made it a Ferrari one-two but a full-attack effort by Russell slotted the latter into P2, at least until Alonso took up the spot.

But Sainz made it a point of keeping the Ferrari duo ahead of the field as he duly took back the runner-up spot.

Meanwhile, Verstappen doubted he could make any inroads into the Italian outfit’s advantage as Red Bull’s RB20 still appeared unstable and bouncy. The Dutchman – on the ragged edge and putting everything on the line – was nevertheless able to conclude the session in second, 0.197s adrift of Leclerc.

The local hero’s performance thus confirmed his status as grand favourite for pole. Behind the leading Ferrari-Red Bull combo, Hamilton in third signaled his intention of getting into the fight for a spot on the front row.

Piastri and Perez completed the top five, while Russell, Sainz, Norris, Tsunoda and Alonso rounded off the top-ten.

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