Practice Three: Hamilton edges Alonso
Lewis Hamilton was fastest in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Italian GP by just one-thousandth of a second from Fernando Alonso.
By Mike Wise at Monza
Last Updated: 08/09/12 11:43am
Lewis Hamilton was fastest in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix by just one-thousandth of a second from Fernando Alonso.
The McLaren driver lapped the 5.793km Monza track in a time of 1:24.578, with Alonso's Ferrari about two-tenths faster than the Force India of Paul di Resta.
Di Resta needs as strong a qualifying performance as he can muster later on Saturday, having been handed a five-place penalty following an enforced gearbox change.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fourth fastest ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button, with Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Sergio Perez (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus), Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) and Pastor Maldonado (Williams) completing the top 10.
Speaking at the conclusion of the hour-long session, Sky Sports F1's Anthony Davidson said: "McLaren have been strong in every condition so far this weekend - on short runs, on long runs, on both compounds of tyres and they've got the Mercedes engine which seems to be the most powerful. But the Ferrari looks pretty handy as well."
FP3 proved a difficult one for both Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, however.
The World Champion pulled off the track at the Ascari Chicane in the closing moments and reported a low battery. Vettel ended the session 12th overall, one place behind Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
Meanwhile, Schumacher was 14th fastest after being hampered by a KERS failure.
With Monza bathed in sunshine, the session began slowly - the similar conditions experienced on Friday perhaps allowing team to complete most of their work then.
With McLaren fastest in FP2, Hamilton and Button were first and second again 20 minutes in with the former then going almost half a second faster still.
Everyone was on the hard tyre at this stage. With Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo a conspicuous presence in the pitlane, Alonso's first serious run saw him split the McLarens before he went five-hundredths quicker than Hamilton.
Schumacher lost his KERS halfway through, but stayed out as he and his team-mate became the first drivers to switch to the medium tyre - Rosberg moving third as a result, albeit four tenths down.
Still on the prime tyre, Hamilton had jumped back ahead of Alonso while Button, whose car had a rear suspension tweak, went out on mediums with just under 15 minutes to go.
He led his team-mate and both Ferraris in making the switch, with Hamilton staying fastest - albeit by just one thousandth of a second over Alonso.
But with the qualifying simulations complete, it was difficult to judge a substantial difference between the tyres in terms of single-lap performance.
Di Resta moved then moved third, before Vettel's session ended prematurely. Red Bull, who admitted on Friday that they have work to do to improve their pace, also have to contend with a KERS issue on Webber's car.
Analysing their difficulties, Sky Sports F1's Damon Hill said: "If you go back to Spa you have to say the Red Bull was slow in straight-line trim. If you're making a car that generates a lot of downforce there's a penalty for that, which is a lot of drag.
"When you come to places like Monza, it's a fantastic car to have when you do want downforce, but when you don't want downforce you carry that drag and I suspect that Red Bull is very draggy even if they take a lot of wing off. They've got a real problem now."