Sebastian Vettel topped the times in the final practice session of the weekend, to stun onlookers who had expected the Red Bull Racing squad to take the upper hand in Monaco going into qualifying, after a very strong FP2. There was just five hundredths of a second splitting the top four, which makes for an interesting battle as we go into qualifying later today.
The German set a superb time of 1:14.650 to take the top spot on a brand new set of the ultra-soft tyres, just one hundredth of second ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS. Vettel looks to have found something extra in the SF16-H, in what was an impressive session for the German, despite having a massive moment under braking for Turn 10, and narrowly escaping a crash.
Nico Rosberg took third spot, one tenth down on team-mate Hamilton, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, who for the majority of the session looked like he would stay on top, after being the first driver to go under 1m15s. Red Bull have looked a real force here in Monaco, and despite finishing down in fourth position, are still only one tenth off the lead time.
Max Verstappen finished the session in fourth place, just three tenths down on his team-mate, despite finding himself in the wall coming into Massenet. The Dutchman under steered as he hit the crest in middle of the track and locked up, before hitting the barrier with just ten minutes of the session remaining. The right hand side of the RB12 took the brunt of the impact, with damage to the front wing being sustained. Verstappen was able to make it back to the pits, and was back out in the final minutes of the session.
Daniil Kvyat was sixth in the Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Faenza-based squad have looked strong in Monaco all weekend, and the Russian has looked much more confident in the car. Team-mate Carlos Sainz was next up, just seven hundredths down on his fellow Toro Rosso runner, with both drivers having set their times on the super-soft tyre.
The Sahara Force India squad have also looked impressive this weekend, and it was a strong morning for them in Monaco with Sergio Perez finishing in eighth, just three tenths off fifth place, showing just how close things are on the streets of Monte-Carlo.
Kimi Raikkonen was a disappointing ninth in the second Ferrari, ahead of the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg who completed the top ten.
Both the Williams Martini Racing and McLaren F1 teams finished outside of the top ten, with both cars looking difficult to drive. Felipe Massa was eleventh, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, the Brit still experiencing the understeer he was feeling during the Thursday practice sessions on the ultra-soft tyre. McLaren are interestingly looking a lot stronger on the super-soft tyre here in Monaco this weekend. Valtteri Bottas was fourteenth, as the Finn appeared to be continually wrestling with the rear of the FW38 and could not find the balance all morning.
Esteban Gutierrez was the first of the Haas F1 runner in fifteenth place, ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the Renault Sport F1 car. The upgraded engine does not seem to be having much effect on the performance of the RS16 just now.
Romain Grosjean was seventeenth, as the Frenchman continued to struggle with the VF16, which does look extremely tricky to drive around the Monaco streets. He was just ahead of the two Sauber F1 cars in eighteenth and nineteenth spot, with the second Renault of Jolyon Palmer in twentieth after a moment early on in the FP3 session.
The Brit was involved in an early incident that saw him brush the barriers, as the RS16 snapped sideways and sent Palmer spinning backwards, at approx. 160 mph, through the swimming pool complex. It was a good save from the Brit, who only damaged the rear wing in the end, in an off that could have been much worse. That incident kept Palmer in the pits for the majority of the session, before he re-emerged with eight minutes of the final practice session to go.
The two Manor Racing machines of Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto brought up the rear, and there was tension between the two team-mates as the German was heard complaining over team radio that Haryanto was going too slow, which hampered his lap.
Heading into qualifying, we have a strong battle on our hands with just one tenth between the top four runners in FP3, with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull all in the mix for that all important pole position.
Monaco Grand Prix Free Practice 3 Times
[table id=1136 /]