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The fight for pole position in the Monaco Grand Prix looks destined to be one of the most competitively contested of recent years as Sebastian Vettel unleashed Ferrari's unexpected pace by topping third free practice.

With Red Bull leading the way courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo on Thursday by a mammoth margin, less than two tenths of a second would cover a top four of Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Ricciardo in FP3 this time.

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The most evenly matched FP3 session for some time, Vettel's rapid turn on the ultra-soft rubber comes after he was only seventh quickest on Thursday having struggled for balance in the SF16-T. Even so, his 1min 14.650secs was still slightly slower than Ricciardo's 1min 14.607secs Thursday benchmark

With Vettel failing to top any one sector but coming out top regardless, he was 0.018secs quicker than Hamilton, with his Mercedes team-mate Rosberg and Red Bull's Ricciardo 0.122s and 0.157s adrift in third and fourth respectively.

Ricciardo's team-mate Max Verstappen may also be a factor come qualifying, though the Dutchman hampered himself with a solid glancing blow against the barrier at Massenet, albeit without damaging the RB12. He was fifth quickest, four tenths off the top spot.

Confirming its impressive pace from Thursday, Toro Rosso were once more 'best of the rest' in sixth and seventh, Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz barely separable, ahead of Sergio Perez - who suffered an off at Mirabeau - and a lacklustre Kimi Raikkonen in ninth. Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten in the second of the Force Indias.

Still struggling for pace around the low speed venue, Williams face a challenge to reach Q3 with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas 11th and 14th, the pair split by the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

Jolyon Palmer suffered the biggest off in the session with a wild spin coming out of the Swimming Pool. Kissing the barrier with the rear of his Renault, the former GP2 champion managed just 17 laps en route to 20th quickest.