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Leclerc quickest in final practice


Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 22 degrees C, while the track temperature is 45 degrees. It is bright and sunny.

As was the case last weekend, Friday's opening practices sessions saw Red Bull struggling, particularly with the circuit's many bumps, however, on the evidence thus far, it isn't only McLaren that is closing in but Ferrari and even Mercedes.

Of course, it all came good, certainly for Max last weekend, but there is no doubt that he is under pressure here, and qualifying is going to be vital.

A true pecking order has not yet emerged, a situation not helped by the fact that some drivers - among them Piastri and the RB pair - have yet to run the softs. Norris did run the red-banded rubber, but only a used set.

The lights go green and shortly after Russell heads out, he is subsequently followed by Norris, the Mercedes on softs and the McLaren on mediums.

Next out is Piastri, who is on hards, followed by Ricciardo (hards).

"Car feels very different," reports Russell, "the steering... compare to yesterday."

Stroll and Alonso head out on mediums.

"There's no vibrations, which is obviously good," adds Russell, "also the steering is very light turning left."

All pit without posting a time, Alonso re-emerging on hards.

Indeed, tyre scrubbing appears to be the order of the day at present as Magnussen and Hamilton head out on softs.

Almost ten minutes in and finally there's a time on the board, a 14.683 from Magnussen.

Hamilton responds with a 14.104.

The session is red-flagged when Bottas clouts the barrier at the Swimming Pool exit, parking at the entry to Rascasse with a broken suspension.

Replay shows Hamilton almost collected his former teammate as he rounded Turn 18 almost blind.

The session resumes with 44 minutes remaining.

Russell is first out, followed by Piastri, Ocon, Gasly and Alonso.

As more drivers head out the majority are on softs.

Russell (softs) raises the bar with a 13.988, but Hulkenberg stops the clock at 13.652.

Magnussen heads down the escape road at Mirabeau, the Dane spinning the car around and returning straight back on to the track. Elsewhere, Hamilton goes off at Ste Devote.

Finally on softs, Piastri goes quickest with a 12.875.

"My tyres are dead," reports Hamilton after that lock-up at Ste Devote.

Verstappen posts an exploratory 14.209.

"My God," declares the Dutchman as he encounters a traffic jam at Rascasse.

Leclerc goes second (13.043) and Sainz third (13.276), only to be split by Magnussen who stops the clock at 13.255.

"That was ******* dangerous," says Magnussen after encountering Hulkenberg and Tsunoda side-by-side in the tunnel.

Piastri improves with a 12.684.

A 12.969 sees Verstappen go second, the Red Bull visibly bouncing in the final corner.

Another lock-up for Hamilton as Piastri gets it wrong at Ste Devote.

Leclerc goes top with a 12.521 as a 12.835 sees Norris improve to fourth.

"What this idiot doing," asks Perez of Zhou after being impeded at Rascasse. The Mexican is currently 18th.

Tsunoda goes second with a 12.526 but is demoted when Verstappen improves with a 12.500.

Albon goes seventh, Perez tenth and Ocon thirteenth.

Leclerc consolidates his position with a 12.092 as Verstappen admits: "I know where I can gain time but it's just not possible". "You know why, he cryptically adds.

A 12.279 sees Sainz go second, just 0.187s off his teammate's pace.

Compared to yesterday, Mercedes is clearly struggling, Hamilton currently ninth and his teammate 15th.

As Leclerc improves to 11.977, Russell goes second with a 12.223.

Quickest in S2, Alonso crosses the line at 12.087 to go second, 0.110s down on Leclerc.

"Lots of three-wheeling into five," complains Russell.

Leclerc improves again (11.977) and his teammate closes to within 0.002s only for the Monegasque to respond with an 11.369, extending the gap to 0.610s. He very much wants this.

As Piastri goes eighth, Verstappen is unhappy after losing time behind his former teammate Ricciardo.

Piastri improves to fifth with a 12.174.

PBs in all three sectors see Hamilton go third (12.014), while Norris goes fifth with a 12.091.

Sainz posts PBs in the opening two sectors, but a scrappy final sector - his tyres clearly past their best - means he fails to improve.

"******* idiots these blokes, all of them," says Norris. "Not all of them, just some of them."

He subsequently improves to third, while Tsunoda goes fourth, Gasly eighth and Albon tenth.

Verstappen goes second, albeit 0.589s off Leclerc's pace, only to be demoted when Piastri stops the clock at 11.901.

Russell goes fourth (11.968), as Verstappen retakes second, closing to within 0.197s of Leclerc.

Hamilton goes third with an 11.710

"That's so dangerous in the tunnel," complains Tsunoda, after being forced wide, almost into the wall, by a slow Red Bull.

Verstappen goes quickest in S1 but subsequently aborts, the Dutchman unhappy with just about everything.

The three-time world champion has been noted for driving unnecessarily slowly. Ironically, holding up his teammate in the process.

"We have a lot of work to do," warns Perez. "The car is nowhere."

Leclerc is quickest, ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton, Piastri, Perez, Russell, Sainz, Norris, Tsunoda and Alonso.

Gasly is eleventh, ahead of Albon, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Stroll, Ocon, Sargeant, Ricciardo, Zhou and Bottas.

What with those teams facing issues - most notably Red Bull - and traffic, qualifying should be fun. Tense, with lots of expletive-filled radio messages, but fun.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Monaco here.


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