Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel closed out practice for the Monaco Grand Prix with the fastest time after edging out his Mercedes and Red Bull rivals in a tight battle on Saturday morning.
Red Bull had led the way on Thursday as Daniel Ricciardo put the Pirelli ultra-soft tires and his upgraded Renault engine to good use, but it could not repeat this form ahead of qualifying.
The session offered a raging battle between Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari as all three teams enjoyed spells at the top of the timesheets. Ricciardo’s pace shone through once again early in the session, but it was Vettel who ultimately finished fastest.
A lap of 1:14.650 was enough to edge out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by just 0.018 seconds, with Nico Rosberg following in the sister Mercedes a further one-tenth of a second behind.
Ricciardo was forced to settle for P4 for Red Bull as traffic prevented him from completing a late qualifying simulation, while teammate Max Verstappen finished just behind in P5.
Verstappen was fortunate not to damage his Red Bull RB12 car when he locked up at Massenet and bumped into the wall. Remarkably, the glancing blow only damaged his front wing, leaving Verstappen’s team with a minimal repair job ahead of qualifying.
Toro Rosso continued its strong start to the weekend as Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished sixth and seventh respectively, finishing within striking distance of the leading three teams.
Sergio Perez ended the session eighth-fastest for Force India, while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and teammate Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10.
Final practice saw a number of drivers making use of the slip roads as they found the limit during their qualifying simulations.
Esteban Gutierrez, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg all ran wide at points, while Renault had another miserable session after Jolyon Palmer spun at the Swimming Pool chicane and damaged the rear of his car.
Up front though, with just one second separating the top nine cars and less than two-tenths covering Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg and Ricciardo, the stage appears to be set for a close battle for pole position later today.
Qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Saturday.