In the final Free Practice session before Qualifying for this weekend’s crucial Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Lewis Hamilton seized the advantage on Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, as the German works outfit left the rest of the field in their wake; Ferrari their nearest challengers.
Hamilton impresses in practice as Vettel and Raikkonen lag behind
Yet, in front of an eager and adoring tifosi, both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen failed to worry championship leader Hamilton and the Briton’s main rival Rosberg, only managing third and fourth respectively - around a whole second off of Hamilton’s blistering 1.22.008 on a warm morning just north of Milan, with temperatures just shy of 30°.
It’s a massive blow to the Scuderia, who thought that they had found the edge yesterday, with both cars troubling the all conquering Silver Arrows in FP2, but Saturday looks to be a different story. The Italian giants can take solace in Red Bull’s apparent lack of pace; Daniel Ricciardo leading controversy-ridden Max Verstappen in seventh and eighth, nearly two seconds off of the front running pace. Verstappen complained about his RB12 sliding around in the corners, in a troubled session for the teenager; he ruined Rosberg’s fast run on soft tyres early in the session at Variante della Roggia - unintentionally - before being caught cold himself by the slowing Renault of Kevin Magnussen, who looks to be showing no signs of discomfort after his colossal shunt last Sunday.
It was a good session for Williams, with both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa making the top six, utilising all the power from their Mercedes customer engine, teamed with their typical low drag chassis design, that will make a force to be reckoned with on Monza’s many long straights. How they need a solid weekend to keep Force India from running away with fourth spot in the constructors standings.
Haas also showed their pace with Esteban Gutierrez making the top 10, Romain Grosjean could only muster 14th, however his session was severely hampered by a spin on entry to the Ascari chicane, only managing four laps. His explantion was "I lost the gearbox" - he looks set to take a five place grid penalty if it needs changing. But one would be inclined to think that the American team’s new and intriguing rear wing, first introduced to the media on Thursday is working well; basic simulations show that they have around 8% more downforce, but close to 12% less drag compared to Belgium.
Meanwhile, McLaren-Honda impressed in the speed traps, indicating a wholesale change in setup and maybe a little more power from the slowly evolving Honda power unit: Fernando Alonso measured fourth fastest on the pit straight, but struggled to a disappointing 16th, sandwiched between the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. Jenson Button’s final run on a set of supersoft tyres was curtailed by a traffic jam with around a minute left of the session, he managed 12th, just three tenths off of the sleeping Red Bulls.
The two Manor cars propped up the field, Pascal Wherlein edging out Esteban Ocon, who had problems yesterday afternoon during his race run. Even with their slippery car, they failed to trouble the speed traps nor the time sheets, just shy of three seconds off the leading pack.
As it was, no one could touch Hamilton, who will be keen to claw back the advantage over Rosberg he held before his gutsy drive at Spa, that was a case of damage limitation more than anything from the back of the grid; setting the fastest time of the weekend so far, over a second faster than his own pole time here last year.
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||1:23.709||+1.701||23|
|8||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||1:23.740||+1.732||21|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:23.917||+1.909||20|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:24.041||+2.033||21|
|13||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:24.240||+2.232||17|
|19||Kevin Magnussen||Renault||1:24.793||+ 2.785||12|
|20||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:24.845||+ 2.837||17|