Vettel edges Verstappen to top FP3
Sebastian Vettel on track during final practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Italy (Photo credit: Dan Istitene, Getty Images)

Ferrari completed the hat-trick, topping the times in all three sessions ahead of qualifying, placing the Scuderia as the team to beat in the coming sessions, with Sebastian Vettel top and Charles Leclerc a tenth off in fourth.

After rain had plagued the previous two practice sessions, FP3 was set to offer drivers a chance to gain more accurate data samples ahead of qualifying and race-day on Sunday.

However, there was an immediate delay to the session after a shocking incident in F3 before the session where Alexander Peroni was launched into the air by a sausage kerb on the tarmac run-off, after Parabolica and into a fence over the barrier.

Fortunately, both the driver and marshals beside the barriers walked away unharmed by the incident, but the sausage kerb was removed before FP3 finally commenced after a ten-minute delay.

Mercedes and Red Bull not far off

Though the Dutchman is one of three drivers who will start from the back of the grid with a penalty, Max Verstappen ended the session as high as second position only 0.032s slower than the leader.

Valtteri Bottas was the quickest of the Mercedes only a tenth off the pace setter Vettel, ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton who struggled to match the leaders’ pace and ended the session in sixth even behind Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault.

The worry for Mercedes and Red Bull will be that Ferrari clearly had more time in their laps with multiple errors from Leclerc preventing him from competing with his four-time world champion teammate at the top of the charts.

Alex Albon looked strong in stages, but the Thai’s Red Bull finished the session in eighth, five-tenths behind his teammate Verstappen, after he struggled with track limits having multiple laps removed by the stewards for gaining time unfairly.

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Renault leading the midfield

Renault’s Ricciardo looked fierce in the midfield with the Renault engine surprisingly effective for the French team, with the Aussie ending the session in fifth ahead of his teammate Nico Hulkenberg in seventh.

Lando Norris focused on long-runs in FP3 with the grid penalty that will see him start from the rear of the field on the mind of the McLaren team.

The other drivers taking penalties are Verstappen and Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso, with the latter managing to end the session in 13th lagging behind his teammate of Daniil Kvyat who finished in 10th.

At the back end of the field, Williams were expecting another tough weekend and found themselves over one-second adrift of the closest runner, Lance Stroll in the Racing Point.

Tow the tactic for qualifying

Throughout all three practice sessions, teams have been eager to test the effectiveness of the tow strategy where one driver will use the slipstream of another to gain valuable tenths which could make the difference come qualifying.

With the Ferrari engines across the grid boasting the highest speeds in a straight line, it is evidently essential that teams such as Toro Rosso using the Honda engine and others using Renault and Mercedes engines, use the tow to good effect.

FP3 results:

1. Sebastian Vettel

2. Max Verstappen

3. Valtteri Bottas

4. Charles Leclerc

5. Daniel Ricciardo

6. Lewis Hamilton

7. Nico Hulkenberg

8. Alex Albon

9. Antonio Giovinazzi

10. Daniil Kvyat

11. Carlos Sainz

12. Sergio Perez

13. Pierre Gasly

14. Lando Norris

15. Kimi Raikkonen

16. Kevin Magnussen

17. Romain Grosjean

18. Lance Stroll

19. George Russell

20. Robert Kubica