Green light for Practice Three and drivers were heading straight out on track. Unlike previous years, there hasn’t been a Friday ‘day off’ here in Monaco and so drivers got their eye in immediately. Given Charles Leclerc topped both practice sessions yesterday and the Ferrari car looked absolutely planted, unlike many others, around these iconic 19 corners, it was no surprise everybody was in consensus about them being favourites today.
Those F1-75 fast red cars are were the first of the expected front runners to head out on track and unsurprisingly they moved straight to the top of the timesheets. Charles Leclerc led with a 1:14.008, a tenth ahead of Carlos Sainz. Encouraging early signs for the Spanish driver still. He really needs a good day. Valtteri Bottas was one of the earlier drivers out there and was tracking in eighth currently – +1.202 off Charles Leclerc’s pace – with around 45 minutes left of FP3, while Charles stayed out for another push lap and, with an incredible final sector, went three tenths faster than before as the time to beat was now a 1:13.6. Make that a 1:13.434 just a few moments later for the Monegasque driver as he finds another couple of tenths despite running on aging soft tyres. Charles’ advantage over Red Bull was all coming in the final sector.
Under-breaking continued to catch people out on this Monaco track, and today it was Yuki Tsunoda who was the first to lock up in his Alpha Tauri.
12-lap old tyres? No problem for Charles Leclerc, who continued to up the ante: his latest lap was a 1:12.885 and that puts a notable 0.4s gap between himself and the Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen. The Dutchman went fastest through the first sector but the Ferrari was just planted all the way through the lap, which no other car was at the moment.
Sergio Perez continued on track out for another lap on softs and cut the Monegasque driver’s advantage – although only by a tenth so it was still a 0.3s lead. And that’s an awful lot around Monaco, Formula 1’s shortest track. Most drivers then returned in the pits and come back out on fresh rubber for the final stages of the third free practice session.
Max Verstappen got a little angry there as he encountered some traffic on a flying lap, the Alfa Romeo on Zhou Guanyu getting in his way. He does manage to improve, although only by a tenth, getting just ahead of Sergio Perez, but 0.3s off Charles. In the final five minutes, the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers all returned to the track on fresh rubber and for what felt like the first time this weekend, Carlos Sainz was ahead of Charles Leclerc: a 1:12.846 from the Spaniard, a few hundredths ahead of Charles who admittedly had’t posted a fast lap on fresh softs yet. Verstappen also improved, but was a tenth off, and then Sergio Perez went fastest of all, 0.069s quicker than Carlos Sainz.
Charles reclaimed top spot with a lightning 1:12.702, but it doesn’t last for long as Sergio Perez puts in a 1:12.554. The Mexican seemed comfortable with his car around this circuit and has had the pace on his teammate Verstappen up to this point. But the home favourite wasn’t going to let Sergio Perez have that top spot at his home circuit for long and so Charles Leclerc puts in a 1:12.517.
It was a topsy turvy final ten minutes of this third practice session, as Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez battled it out for top spot. In the end, it was Perez who came out on top, his 1:12.476 putting him just 0.041 ahead of Charles. Carlos Sainz finished third, with Max Verstappen in fourth, sitting 0.405s off the pace of his teammate. Qualifying will certainly be interesting as the Red Bull and Ferrari battle continues!
Final Practice: Top Ten
1) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
4) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
5) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
6) Lando Norris, McLaren
7) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
8) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
9) George Russell, Mercedes
10) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
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