May 24, 2014, 6:04 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix later today, which is live on NBCSN from 8am ET.
The British driver is chasing a fifth straight win this weekend, and his practice form suggests that he has every chance of doing exactly that after finishing ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Nico Rosberg on Saturday morning in Monaco.
The final practice session got underway under perfect blue skies, but Monaco’s serenity was broken when the 22 drivers headed out on track. Mercedes soon went about resuming normal service as Rosberg and Hamilton moved into the top two places.
Marcus Ericsson’s session took an early setback when he locked up at Sainte Devote and had to take to the run-off area. However, he was able to find reverse gear and get back onto the track. Rosberg and Hamilton continued to put in the laps and improve their times, with the German driver remaining one-tenth ahead after the prime tire runs. Hamilton had been working up a very quick lap, but a mistake at Tabac prompted him to return to the pits and request a setup change.
Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo continued to prove that Red Bull is slightly closer to Mercedes in Monaco, slotting into third and fourth place respectively ahead of Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen on the prime tire.
With 15 minutes to go, the first drivers pitted to switch to the option tire, and Ricciardo soon put it to good use by going quickest of all. In the other Red Bull, Vettel went into second place, some four-tenths down on his teammate as Hamilton headed back out again. However, Rosberg remained in the pits as the team fixed a problem on his car.
Hamilton used his first two laps to warm up his tires, but then duly went fastest of all with a lap that was just half-a-tenth quicker than Ricciardo’s benchmark. With five minutes remaining, Rosberg finally got out on track and started his final run, but traffic on his flying lap meant that he could only finish in third place, one-tenth of a second behind his teammate.
The pressure will now be on Mercedes in qualifying as Red Bull hints at a resurgence, but all of the signs suggest that Hamilton remains the driver to beat in Monaco.
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