Verstappen leads Perez and Stroll in disrupted final practice in Monaco, as Hamilton crashes out

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Max Verstappen was quickest on the final practice session around the streets of Monte Carlo, leading his team-mate and championship rival Sergio Perez by a mere 0.073s, with Lance Stroll just behind in third. Many drivers were on for better laps at the end of the session, but disruptions for Kevin Magnussen’s stricken Haas and a late crash for Lewis Hamilton put an ealry end to the session.

Photo Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

As the final practice session ahead of arguably the most important qualifying session of the year, blue skies and ideal conditions met the drivers on the streets of Monte Carlo.

The session started quietly, with just the two Aston Martin cars on track putting heat cycles through their race tyres in the first five minutes, not going for timed laps.

Esteban Ocon had an early scare as he stopped his Alpine in the middle of the tunnel. The Frenchman reported “no power” over the radio, but managed to get it going again and bring his A521 back to the pits.

Sergio Perez posted the first fast lap of the session, with a time of 1:15.641 on the soft tyres for his initial run, with Valtteri Bottas slotting just behind the Mexican.

After a flurry of fast laps, as the session reached a quarter of its duration, Perez improved his time to a 1:14.990, putting him just 0.06s ahead of Sainz and a further 0.01s ahead of Lance Stroll, with many drivers still to put in competitive laps, including Fernando Alonso, the two Mercedes cars and reigning world champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman quickly changed that picture, as he went fastest over his team-mate Perez by nearly 0.6s on his first lap only, with a very impressive effort.

Fernando Alonso also showed impressive pace in his Aston, the Spaniard putting his AMR23 in P1 before Perez improved his time to take the top spot by 0.110s, but was quickly eclipsed by another good lap from Verstappen, who responded with a time 0.004s ahead of the Mexican.

As the session approached the halfway mark, most drivers brought their cars back to the pits and the classified order of the top 10 was: Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, Sainz, Ocon, Leclerc, Stroll, Russell, Bottas, Gasly.

Mercedes’ heavily revised W14 didn’t feature at the front of the timings sheets at the start of the session, but George Russell posted a time good enough for 4th place as the session reached half duration. His team-mate Lewis Hamilton would soon follow, with a lap good enough for fifth.

Charles Leclerc reported over the radio that his car was “bottoming out a lot” heading into the swimming pool section, having to lift off the throttle due to having “no control of the car“.

The two Red Bull drivers kept trading fastest times over the course of the session, with Verstappen leading Perez by 0.073s as the session approached two thirds of its duration, ahead of the two Ferrari drivers of Sainz and Leclerc, respectively.

As qualifying preparations started to ramp up, the drivers started to take more risks around the streets of Monaco, with both Max Verstappen and George Russell having small clips of the walls.

After an early hiccup in the session, Esteban Ocon was able to get his Alpine going again, and sat in 10th place, 1.2s off the pace, with a third of the session remaining – four places and 0.3s back from his team-mate Gasly.

With 18 minutes to go, Lance Stroll posted a very quick time that put him just 0.166s behind Verstappen’s earlier benchmark. Logan Sargeant, at the same time, got his Williams up into the top 10, with a lap just over a second slower than the fastest.

Fernando Alonso went for another lap as the session reached its last 15 minutes, but a snap of oversteer in the first corner left the Spaniard way down on his personal best, unable to improve and staying in 12th place.

Ahead of the final runs, with 10 minutes remaining, the classified order was: Verstappen, Perez, Stroll, Sainz, Norris, Gasly, Leclerc, Hamilton, Ocon, Bottas.

Kevin Magnussen had the first major off-track moment of the session, running wide in Saint Devote and causing a lengthy yellow flag period as the session reached its final stages.

The Dane managed to make a three-point turn and get his Haas going again, but he soon stopped on the way to Portier, reporting that he had no power steering. This caused a late Virtual Safety Car and put an end to several fast laps – including that of Fernando Alonso, who had just gone quickest in the first sector but had to abort the lap due to the stricken Haas.

The session resumed with 6 minutes remaining, but it got quickly halted again as Lewis Hamilton wedged his updated Mercedes into the barriers on the exit of Mirabeau, after a snap of oversteer sent the Briton straight into the wall, bringing a late red flag and an early end to the final practice session ahead of the most important qualifying of the year.

Source: F1