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Monaco Grand Prix practice: Leclerc fastest as Vettel crashes

Charles Leclerc Ferrari Monaco GP 2019

Charles Leclerc edged out the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to top third practice for the Monaco Grand Prix after Ferrari Formula 1 team-mate Sebastian Vettel crashed out early on.

Leclerc ended the session 0.053 seconds faster than Bottas, with Lewis Hamilton a fraction behind, as circumstances conspired to prevent the rapid Red Bull of Max Verstappen from setting a more representative time. Verstappen ended the session fourth ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly.

The Mercedes W10s carried red halos for the first time this weekend in deference to the passing of Niki Lauda, but both drivers ultimately failed to prevent the timesheet wearing red up top.

Bottas set the pace in the early running with a 1m12.238s, just a few tenths up on Vettel and Leclerc, but since Thursday's practice yielded times in the 1m11s bracket there remained plenty of room for improvement as the track evolved.

Hamilton's arrival on track was marginally delayed by last-minute adjustments to his W10 and when he did get going, just 10 minutes into the session, he complained of vibrations from the front axle. Nevertheless he soon got up to speed and had just demoted Vettel when the Ferrari departed the scene.

Vettel locked his front-right wheel and went off into the outside barrier at Ste Devote after completing just seven timed laps.

Sebastian Vettel

As Vettel's car was craned off the track and the lap times began to tumble, Verstappen rose to become the principal challenger to the two Mercedes.

By the end of the first runs Bottas was fastest of all with a 1m11.835s he clocked up towards the close of a 13-lap stint, while Hamilton was just 0.199s in arrears.

Verstappen was a further tenth off but running a shorter 10-lap stint, and seemingly unable to keep the tyres alive over a single lap - either being slow in the first sector but in the Mercedes ballpark in the final third, or vice versa.

Having failed to string together a properly quick lap in his opening run, Leclerc responded with a sizzling 1m11.265s lap at the beginning of his next stint, topping the timesheet by 0.053s as Bottas improved to 1m11.318s and Hamilton to 1m11.478s.

Verstappen's push laps during his second stint were frustrated by traffic and a brush with the barrier at Rascasse; had he been able to connect all the dots, his theoretical best at this point was 1m11.270s rather than the 1m11.539s he registered when crossing the line.

Hamilton was the first of the frontrunners to leave the pits for a qualifying simulation with three minutes of the session to run, followed in short order by Leclerc and Bottas, but traffic militated against any of them improving their times.

Antonio Giovinazzi was 'best of the rest' in sixth for Alfa Romeo behind Gasly, albeit half a second off the Red Bull's pace, with a 1m12.170s set late in the session.

The midfield margins were wafer thin: four tenths separated Giovinazzi from Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen, Kimi Raikkonen, Alexander Albon, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean.

Vettel was classified 14th as neither the McLarens, the Racing Points nor the Williams were able to surpass his early time.

Practice three times

1Charles LeclercFerrari1m11.265s-26
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1m11.318s0.053s27
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m11.478s0.213s27
4Max VerstappenRed Bull/Honda1m11.539s0.274s24
5Pierre GaslyRed Bull/Honda1m11.738s0.473s27
6Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo/Ferrari1m12.170s0.905s23
7Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Honda1m12.194s0.929s27
8Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1m12.270s1.005s25
9Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo/Ferrari1m12.308s1.043s27
10Alexander AlbonToro Rosso/Honda1m12.338s1.073s32
11Nico HulkenbergRenault1m12.489s1.224s26
12Daniel RicciardoRenault1m12.519s1.254s26
13Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari1m12.566s1.301s27
14Sebastian VettelFerrari1m12.583s1.318s7
15Carlos Sainz Jr.McLaren/Renault1m12.862s1.597s29
16Lando NorrisMcLaren/Renault1m12.914s1.649s26
17Sergio PerezRacing Point/Mercedes1m13.232s1.967s23
18Lance StrollRacing Point/Mercedes1m13.622s2.357s21
19Robert KubicaWilliams/Mercedes1m14.086s2.821s27
20George RussellWilliams/Mercedes1m14.305s3.040s27

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