Heikki Kovalainen led a McLaren 1-2 in the third and final free practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, but would have been unable to defend his early benchmark time following a brush with the barriers in the Swimming Pool section.

The Finn's top spot was protected by the first rain of the weekend to affect the Formula One circus. Having started wet with the suggestion that the track would dry throughout the hour-long session, the precipitation returned to deny the rest of the field a shot at Kovalainen's 1min 16.567secs effort, even though the McLaren man ended his morning with rear end damage on his MP4-23.

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished the session second overall, but was 0.517secs adrift of Kovalainen, the Finn the only driver to get into the 1min 16s, but still 1.4secs off Hamilton's Thursday pace. Kovalainen's moment brought out the third red flag in as many F1 sessions, further reducing the amount of track time for his rivals.

Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest for Ferrari, with Nico Rosberg again confirming his potential for a good result in fourth spot for Williams, ahead of both BMW's Robert Kubica and the second F2008 of Felipe Massa. The Brazilian had set the early pace, but soon found Kovalainen taking chunks out of his marker as the track dried.

Mark Webber put Red Bull Racing back into the top ten, while Adrian Sutil showed that his frontrunning pace from last year's corresponding wet session was not entirely a fluke by pushing the best of the Force India entries up into eighth spot. Kazuki Nakajima and Jenson Button rounded out the top ten.

David Coulthard was again restricted to last spot, after another mechanical problem sidelined his Red Bull RB4, and was joined in an unlikely bottom three by Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella.

 

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