Kicking off Saturday at the Italian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton secured the top spot on the time sheet for the second time this weekend. Hamilton topped the final free practice time sheets ahead of Fernando Alonso by a, not so slender, margin of 0.412 seconds.
Things were as you would expect Yesterday, as Mercedes laid down the marker once more with the team securing the top spot in FP1 through Lewis Hamilton, before Rosberg topped FP2 after a problematic start for Lewis with an engine that wouldn’t start. But it was McLaren, Williams and Ferrari all providing a challenge to the Silver Arrows.
Come 10 O’clock this morning, the green light at the end of the pit lane flicked on to start the final free practice session with Bottas, Kvyat and Chilton all heading straight out. Come qualifying later today, Kvyat will need to have a flying session in order to start in a strong position tomorrow. This is a general thing for qualifying, but following the Russian receiving a 10-place grid penalty for his sixth internal combustion engine being fitted, a strong qualifying is even more vital. Kvyat becomes the first driver this season to receive a grid penalty due to an engine component change.
After shining in free practice yesterday, the McLaren drivers were straight out on the track with Magnussen posting the first timed lap of the session. His 1:32:296 may have seen his MP4-29 take the top step momentarily but was soon pushed down by the two Caterham’s, Hulkenberg’s Force India and the other MP4-29 belonging to Jenson Button.
Early gremlins may have snuck aboard Rosberg’s Mercedes with the current Drivers Championship leader unhappy with the gearing on his car during his first run. He soon returned to the garage whilst times flooded onto the board.
Jenson remained in P1 whilst the early runs continued, but his advantage was far from large. After the Britton returned to the pits, Ricciardo moved to within three tenths of a second to him for P2. But even the Aussie’s time was pushed down to 5th place by Hulkenberg and both Williams drivers.
By now Hamilton had taken to the track but his best lap time in the opening 20 minutes was only good enough for tenth place, over 1.8 seconds slower than Bottas now table topping time.
With the session already a quarter of the way through, most of the drivers returned to their garages leaving an empty track for Alonso, Raikkonen, Button, Vergne and Grosjean. With the empty track and the constantly developing track conditions, Fernando Alonso was able to identically match Valtteri Bottas’ table topping 1:26:693 in front of the home crowd.
Whilst Alonso matched Bottas’ time, Rosberg remained in his garage without setting a lap time and had only completed three laps. Two of which were installation laps. The reason behind Rosberg remaining in the garage was because his session was over with a gearbox problem and the floor removed from his Mercedes. This means Nico will head into qualifying without carrying out a qualifying simulation run.
Another driver who faced an early end to FP3 was Sergio Perez. Force India’s Mexican driver came to a stop on the inside of Curva Grande with his car going nowhere. His Force India had been running fine on the run down the pit straight but as soon as he exited the first chicane his gearbox went into neutral and he began to crawl to a halt.
Now with his team-mate out of the session, Lewis Hamilton set about going P1. Following Rosberg’s forced retirement Jenson Button had regained the top spot with a 1:26:573, but this was an easy enough target for Hamilton to better as he set a 1:25:742. This meant he took the top spot by over 8 tenths of a second following a lap full of purple sectors.
As the final 20 minutes approached, Fernando Alonso became the first driver to head out on the medium compound tyres. By the time he crossed the line to post his first qualifying simulation lap time he had come to within 0.189 seconds of Hamilton and slotted into second. During that lap Fernando used the new run-off at Parabolica to his advantage by placing two wheels onto the green paint.
Another driver on the medium tyres was the other Ferrari and for Kimi Raikkonen, Parabolica was a key part of his timed lap. For the Finn he was forced into a battle with oversteer going through the Parabolica but still moved up to third.
Going into the final 10 minutes of the session, most drivers headed back out onto the track with the medium compound tyres, although not all found an instant gain. Button improved on his personal best to go P3, with Magnussen moving up to P9. But for Hamilton, at the top of the time sheet, he saw no instant gain and finished the lap slightly slower after two slow sectors.
Unlike Alonso, who returned to the pits after his flying lap, Hamilton stayed out, carried out a recharge lap and went for another flyer. This time he saw the gain, went two tenths quicker overall and even entered the Parabolica at 240kmh, with an exit speed of 201kmh.
By this stage there was just a minute remaining and in that time there were no significant lap times posted and the drivers returned to their garages with Hamilton once again on top. Fernando Alonso, at Ferrari’s home race, came home in second place with Valtteri Bottas seven hundredths back.
Going into qualifying later today things are looking good for Ferrari, Williams and McLaren. With Red Bull improving to claw themselves back towards the front. However these times are not fully respective of the qualifying outcome as Rosberg should return and fight at the front.
|6||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:26.290||0.771||17|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:26.482||0.963||16|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.608||1.089||17|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:27.312||1.793||10|
|22||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||No time||3|