Sebastian Vettel went quickest in final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, edging out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by just under two hundredths of a second in a tight battle that saw the top four drivers covered by just 0.157s.
Third place went to championship leader Nico Rosberg, 0.122 adrift of Vettel, while fourth place was taken by Friday’s fastest man, Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing. The Australian driver was just 0.157 behind Vettel, but his Friday best of 1:14.607 was marginally quicker than Vettel’s Saturday morning table topper.
Most of the drivers’ best laps were set in the opening phase of the session with both Mercedes and Ferrari quickly out of the blocks on the new ultrasoft tyres, which is making it race weekend debut here in Monaco.
The early exchanges saw Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg all take P1 as the gradually worked their way into the session, each steadily winding up his pace as the laps unfolded.
Hamilton took P1 with a lap of 1:15.508, before the yellow flags were briefly shown when Renault’s Jolyon Palmer has a dramatic spin. The Briton got out of shape through the opening part of the Swimming Pool section and spun in the middle of the track. Fortunately the incident resulted in only a minor brush with the barriers.
Vettel was quickly back on top of the standings but the times were falling steadily and Rosberg was soon back in control with a lap of 1:15.181.
That was how it stood for several minutes, until the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and team-mate Max Verstappen took to the track.
Ricciardo claimed P2 with a time of 1:15.192 and with his next lap he rocketed past the Mercedes driver’s benchmark with a time of 1:14.807. Verstappen then jumped to P2 with his best lap of the morning, a 1:15.618.
A brief lull then ensued before Vettel emerged for another run on ultrasofts. The German timed his run well, too, finding enough space on a track rapidly filling with traffic to record his best time, the 1:14.650 that earned him P1.
On his next lap, however, the four-time champion had a worrying moment when he lost control under braking for the Nouvelle Chicane, though he reported that he had “touched nothing”.
Despite 17 cars being on track at the time, Hamilton and Rosberg also managed to space for improvements, with Hamilton jumping to P2 ahead of his team-mate.
Verstappen, though, was running out of space. The Spanish Grand Prix winner outbraked himself on the way through Massenet and clipped the wall, though like Palmer he escaped with minor damage and returned to the track late in the session.
There were also nervous moments for Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez, Force India’s Sergio Perez and Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein who all required the escape roads late in the session. All managed to carry on, but Renault’s Kevin Magnussen was less fortunate. He locked up on the approach to Ste Devote, took the escape road but he was not able to continue.
There were few further improvements in the closing stages and with Ricciardo fourth, fifth place went to Verstappen.
Daniil Kvyat was sixth for Toro Rosso ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz, Perez, Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
2016 Monaco Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:14.650
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.668
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:14.772
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:14.807
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:15.081
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:15.259
7 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:15.324
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1:15.368
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:15.555
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:15.666
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:16.068
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:16.257
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:16.298
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:16.347
15 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:16.406
16 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:16.412
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:16.527
18 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:16.867
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:17.038
20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:17.482
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:17.595
22 Rio Haryanto Manor 1:18.180