Leclerc tops final Monaco GP practice ahead of Verstappen

Monaco's Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc of Ferrari arrives at the paddock for Practice 3 ahead of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. Daisy Facinelli/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Charles Leclerc was top again on the streets of his home town while world champion Max Verstappen improved to second in final practice on Saturday for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Leclerc clocked 1 minute 11.369 seconds on the 3.337-kilometres course in the principality to finish almost two-tenths ahead of Red Bull driver Verstappen.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was third ahead of McLaren's Oscar Piastri.

Leclerc had also topped the timesheets in second practice Friday, while Verstappen was 11th and fourth Friday in another difficult start into a GP weekend.

Qualifying is scheduled for later Saturday and is hugely important for Sunday's race because overtaking is almost impossible on the iconic but narrow circuit.

Verstappen can claim a record ninth pole in a row in a winning run in qualifying which started at last year's finale in Abu Dhabi. Last week he tied the late Ayrton Senna on eight straight poles at the Emilia Romagna GP.

Practice was briefly red-flagged after Valtteri Bottas hit the wall which broke his suspension and forced him to stop at Rascasse, ending his session prematurely.

Verstappen leads the championship 48 points ahead of Leclerc who will be hoping to finally win the most prestigious grand prix in his birth and home town.

He has never made the podium in a F1 race there despite two pole positions in 2021 and 2022. The Monegasque missed the 2021 race owing to a driveshaft failure just before the race and had to settle for fourth in 2022 after a poor pit stop.