Monaco GP: Charles Leclerc fastest in practice but reprimanded for slow driving

The Monegasque made local knowledge pay and thrilled his fans when he topped the final practice times for Ferrari ahead of Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix but was investigated for driving too slowly.

The stewards said that they had ruled Leclerc did not increase his lap time above the minimum required during the VSC period.

Charles Leclerc escaped with a reprimand and avoided a grid penalty on Saturday after he infringed the minimum speed limits set during a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) intervention during third and final free practice in Monaco.

The Monegasque made local knowledge pay and thrilled his fans when he topped the final practice times for Ferrari ahead of Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix but was investigated for driving too slowly following his teammate Sebastian Vettel's crash at Ste Devote.

In a statement, the stewards said that they had ruled he did not increase his lap time above the minimum required during the VSC period.

“The stewards recognised that the driver was considerably slower than a normal lap through the sequence...and therefore impose a reprimand which is consistent with similar cases during practice sessions.”

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Drivers are expected to lap at a specific speed during VCS interventions for safety reasons. The reprimand lifts the threat of Leclerc facing a grid penalty for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix as imposed in previous cases where drivers exceeded the maximum speeds prescribed.

The Monegasque driver, clocked a best lap in one minute and 11.265 seconds to outpace nearest rival Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes by just 0.053 seconds.

His lap ended the Silver Arrows domination after they had topped both sessions on Thursday in cooler conditions.

On a mixed day for Ferrari, Vettel crashed at the first corner after only 18 minutes. He was unhurt, but unable to run in the remainder of the session, leaving Ferrari with emergency repairs to the front suspension before the later qualifying.

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Championship leader and defending five-time champion Lewis Hamilton was third in the second Mercedes, two-tenths adrift, ahead of Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly.

Antonio Giovinazzi was sixth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Kevin Magnussen of Haas, Kimi Raikkonen in the second Alfa and Alex Albon in the second Toro Rosso.

The Mercedes cars ran with red Halo cockpit protection devices carrying the message 'Niki we miss you'.