FP3: Ricciardo edges it as Verstappen crashes out in Monaco
The Red Bulls continued to show the rest of the Formula 1 field a clean pair of heels in Monaco's final practice on Saturday morning, but there was trouble for Max Verstappen as he ended the session with his RB14 in the wall.
Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen had traded quickest times throughout the session to head into qualifying as the favourites. But with just 8 minutes left on the clock, as he was sat on top of the time sheets, Verstappen got it wrong coming out of the Swimming Pool complex and hit the outer wall, ripping the front-right off his car.
When the session restarted, Ricciardo was immediately on it to go fastest of anyone, just 0.001 faster than his team mate. The time improved on the outright track record that the Australian had claimed on Thursday, taking it down to a rapid 1m 11.786s.
Ferrari maintained their position as the second-best team, but were closer to the Red Bulls than they had been during Thursday’s two practice sessions, with Sebastian Vettel lining up in third ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in fourth.
Mercedes continued to struggle with their car, meanwhile, which demonstrated its lack of agility around the Monaco streets compared to the Red Bull and the Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton was fifth fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who was confined to the pits midway through the session after damaging the rear end of his car while trying to spin turn out of Sainte Devote having overshot Turn 1.
The battle for the ‘best of the rest’ continued to be hotly contested, with some surprising players getting into the mix. After stating his aim to make it into Q3 for qualifying, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley impressed to go seventh fastest, just under a second off Ricciardo’s time, while team mate Pierre Gasly proved that there’s real pace in the STR13 by going eighth.
Toro Rosso appeared to have displaced Renault at the head of the midfield, with Carlos Sainz finishing down in ninth, while team mate Nico Hulkenberg could only manage 14th.
One of the stars of the session had to be Sergey Sirotkin. Williams had looked set to bring up the rear at Monaco after Thursday’s running, but the Russian banged in the 10th fastest time of FP3, a mere 1.068 off the ultimate pace. If he can match that in qualifying, he’ll bring a much-needed smile to the faces of the Grove team.
Over at McLaren, a quiet session saw Stoffel Vandoorne finish up in 11th, while Fernando Alonso - back at Monaco for the first time since 2016 following his appearance at the Indy 500 last year - seemed to be taking some time to re-find his Monegasque flow, ending the session in 15th. They sandwiched the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in 12th and 13th, as well as Hulkenberg in the second Renault.
Haas’s Monaco woes continued, meanwhile. The team have struggled in all three sessions so far, and finished the hour with Grosjean – who complained on the radio of a lack of grip from his chassis – in 18th and Kevin Magnussen in 19th, both cars being outpaced by the Sauber of local boy Charles Leclerc in 17th. Leclerc’s team mate Marcus Ericsson brought up the rear in 20th place.
What to look for during qualifying? Keep your eyes peeled for the tyres the teams will bolt on for Q2. If the fastest cars can make it through that session and into Q3 on the more durable, purple ultrasoft rubber, rather than the more rapid pink-walled hypersofts, that should give them the ideal strategy for the race, providing that weather doesn’t play a part. And as for pole? It’s looking set to be a Red Bull bun fight around the Principality… if Verstappen’s car can be fixed in time, that is.