Leclerc lays down qualifying marker in red-flagged Monaco FP3


Charles Leclerc will enter qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix as the favorite for pole after a strong showing in FP3.

After topping Friday's second practice session, Leclerc immediately set the pace with a time of 1:12.521 on the soft tyres, but eventually trimmed that down to XXX to make him the main contender for pole position in his home race.

His closest rivals were Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in second and third, although Leclerc was comfortably two-tenths ahead of Red Bull and almost three-and-a-half ahead of Mercedes.

The session was briefly red flagged in the early stages after Valtteri Bottas hit the barrier at the exit of the pool, stopping at Rascas.

The first real lap of the session was set by Haas' Kevin Magnussen after around nine minutes, with Mercedes driver George Russell leading by the time Bottas hit the wall with his right front resulting in him being unable to get around Raskas and back into the pits. .

After a brief four-minute delay, the session resumed with Leclerc in steady pursuit.

He clocked 1:12.521 at the start, gradually reducing that to 1:12.242, 1:12.092, 1:11.977 before a final 1:11.369 that would see him lead the session, some 0.7 seconds clear of teammate Carlos. Sainz at the time eventually set the fastest lap.

After jumping like a kangaroo on Friday, Verstappen had a better day, but was caught in traffic on several laps, forcing him to abandon laps, and faces an investigation by stewards for driving unnecessarily slowly.

Hamilton, who started an encouraging day for Mercedes, was forced to miss some running after a big pit stop at St Devot, and finished that set of tires, but a late flyer put him third, ahead of Oscar Piastri, Sergio Perez, Russell, Sainz and Lando Norris.

Yuki Tsunoda was best of the rest, with FP2 P2 driver Fernando Alonso rounding out the top ten for Aston Martin.

As for the rest of the drivers, Pierre Gasly took 11th place for the Alpine team, while Alex Albon took 12th place for the Williams team, which suffered from tire wear on Friday.

The Haas duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Magnussen finished 13th and 14th, ahead of Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon – who suffered a major stop of his own at Turn 1.

Logan Sargent overtook 2018 Monaco winner Daniel Ricciardo to take 17th place as the Stake drivers once again finished in the bottom two – this time Zhou Guanyu ahead of Bottas who did not set a time.



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