Vettel fastest for Ferrari in final practice for Monaco GP


Sebastian Vettel sent out a warning shot to Mercedes during final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday morning by finishing half a second clear for Ferrari at the top of the timesheets.

After Thursday’s second practice session has been washed out, all of the drivers opted to head out early to try and fit more running into the hour-long session, and it was Vettel who set the pace with a fastest lap time of 1:16.143.

Ferrari opted to bide its time at the start of the session before sending Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen out for a lap as Mercedes set the early pace with Lewis Hamilton at the front of the field.

In the dying stages of FP3, Vettel made the switch to the super-soft compound tire with low fuel for a qualifying simulation and produced a scintillating lap to go fastest of all.

Nico Rosberg tried to respond in the Mercedes W06 Hybrid, but did not find enough time and eventually fell two-tenths of a second short. Hamilton was unable to post a fast lap at the end due to traffic, leaving him half a second down in third place ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen ran strongly for Toro Rosso once again in FP3, finishing fifth and ninth respectively. Verstappen was unable to get out for a late lap time after hitting the wall and suffering damage to his rear wing, but remains set for a Q3 place in qualifying later today.

Kimi Raikkonen ran well on the soft compound tire to sit sixth at the end of the session, although he was forced to curtail his running early after clipping the wall at turn one with his left-rear tire. Although the damage looked minor, Ferrari will still be facing a race against time to get his car ready for qualifying later today.

Daniil Kvyat backed up Ricciardo’s result in the sister Red Bull to finish seventh, whilst Jenson Button showed that McLaren does stand a chance of getting into Q3 by ending the session in eight place. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten behind Verstappen.

With Ferrari now also in the running for pole position, qualifying later today is poised to be a thrilling affair. Join us for the full session live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.