Red Bull driver Max Verstappen announced the fastest time in the third and final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix before qualifying later on Saturday.
The contender for the Formula 1 championship leads the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jr. and the local favorite Charles Leclerc, as the defender of the champion Lewis Hamilton is only the seventh fastest for Mercedes. His teammate Valteri Botas was fourth ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Lando Norris in sixth.
Hamilton leads the championship with 14 points from Verstappen after four races, with Botas already some distance behind them in the third overall.
The 36-year-old Hamilton is bidding for a record 101st pole and 99th victory in the race. The 23-year-old Verstappen is looking for a fifth pole in his career and a 12th victory.
A third event-laden training session was interrupted twice due to accidents.
There were about 15 minutes left when Nicholas Latifi hit the barriers and twisted the front right wheel of his Williams. Then, in a moment, Mick Schumacher crashed his Haas car and there was not enough time to restart.
Ferrari looked strong in the first two sessions on Thursday, with Leclerc leading P2 and Sainz Jr. second in both. This came as a relief for Ferrari after struggling badly last year in qualifying and on race day.
Leclerc is from Monaco and grew up in an apartment overlooking the tough 3.4-kilometer chain that winds around the picturesque principality. He lives 4 km (2.5 miles) by bike from Monaco to Cap d’Ail, one of the many small and picturesque places located on the spectacular coast of the French Riviera.
Few fans returned to the stands after the iconic race was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Police stopped several buses coming from Cap d’Ice – which is in France – to Monaco and checked people’s work permits. Security officials also checked passengers at the exit of Monaco-Monte Carlo station, making sure they had a negative PCR test for COVID-19 when entering the small principality.