F1 | Monaco GP | FP3 | Charles Leclerc tops final practice ahead of his home Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc navigates the Fairmont Hairpin at his home Grand Prix - Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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Home hero Leclerc leads the way as the Monegasque driver targets a debut home victory around the streets of Monaco.

George Russell in the Mercedes was the first to hit the streets of Monaco in the final practice session ahead of qualifying this afternoon, followed by the McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. Following excessive vibrations in the steering yesterday, Russell reported the vibrations had gone, but the steering was now imbalanced from left to right.

With most drivers passing through the pitlane for pit stop practice on their early laps, it was Kevin Magnussen in the Haas who set the opening time with a 1:14.683, with 8 minutes gone from the clock.

7 time world champion Lewis Hamilton was next to cross the line on a hot lap, comfortably beating Magnussen’s time with a 1:14.104. An early red flag, just over ten minutes into the session, brought running to a pause as Valtteri Bottas found the barrier at the exit of the swimming pool chicane, breaking his front right suspension.

Returning to the pits, Lewis Hamilton came across the stricken Kick Sauber at the penultimate turn and struggled to manoeuvre his Mercedes past. A quick turn around saw the car recovered and the track reopened with just under 44 minutes left on the clock. 

With the track green once again there was a frenzy in the pit lane as almost every remaining driver rushed to hit the track. Russell then jumped to the top of the timesheets with a 1:13.988 as the laps flooded in. Nico Hulkenberg then pipped the Mercedes by just over 3 tenths of a second.

Championship leader Verstappen on his first lap only managed a 1:14.209, over half a second slower than the pace setting Haas. 

As the drivers tested the limits, Hamilton carried too much speed into Sainte Devote, finding the run off area and necessitating a spin turn to return to the circuit,

New pacesetter Oscar Piastri in the much improved McLaren set a 1:12.827, the first driver in the sub 1:13’s. The young Aussie then extended his advantage with a 1:12.684 as the drivers struggled to navigate a heavily congested Monaco circuit.

Max Verstappen, following a battle with traffic on his previous lap, managed to grab P2 briefly, before home hero Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari jumped to the top with a 1:12.521. 

With 30 minutes gone from the session, Lewis Hamilton sat in the garage having destroyed his tyres with his turn 1 lock up. Countryman Lando Norris meanwhile struggled to match his younger teammate Piastri in the first half of the session.

An eye-catching 1:12.526 from Yuki Tsunoda in the RB was good enough for P2, before being pipped by Verstappen by just 0.03 seconds. Halfway through the session however, it was Charles Leclerc, hungry for a home victory, leading the way with 4 tenths in hand over Verstappen. The local favourite ever threatening to dip below the 1:12 mark.

Charles Leclerc passes through the tunne at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix – Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz was next to leap up the timesheets, his 1:12.279 just shy of 2 tenths off the pace.

Back on track, seven time champion Hamilton was on for a good lap, before a snap of oversteer saw him bounce over the exit kerb at the swimming pool chicane, losing him a lot of time in the third sector. A radio message informed him he was on pace with Leclerc up to the error,

Charles Leclerc meanwhile, once again extended his advantage, dipping below the 1:12 mark with a 1:11.977, the gap to his teammate now 3 tenths of a second as the session settled down approaching the final third.

A blistering lap, going purple in the second sector, from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso saw the Spaniard close considerably to Leclerc at the top. He was soon beaten by his countryman in the second Ferrari however, who set a time just 0.002s slower than his teammate.

Not to be beaten however, Leclerc smashed his previous fastest lap by 6 tenths with a 1:11.369 despite a small lock up late in the lap, the Monegasque driver seeming nearly untouchable on his home streets.

With just over ten minutes remaining, every driver, excluding Valtteri Bottas who’s car was not returned to the garage, hit the track. 

With improvements hard fought in the final few minutes of the session, a struggling Max Verstappen managed to pip Carlos Sainz, albeit still just over half a second off the pace of Leclerc as the champion claimed P2. An on form Piastri however pipped the Red Bull, before Verstappen once again claimed the position and closed the gap to Leclerc to 0.197s.

Image Credit: Formula 1