Italian GP: A damp starting FP3 topped by Lewis Hamilton but a closer challenge posed by Ferrari

Final free practice for the 2015 Italian Grand Prix topped by Lewis Hamilton.

It may have been a damp morning in Monza but it was not a damp squib of a session once the track dried for the final practice session at the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, held at the temple of speed. By the end of the hour long session, Hamilton had topped the leaderboard with the fastest lap once the racing line appeared on the slippery surface.

Back in practice one and two, Hamilton had shown how far Mercedes controlled the field by topping both leaderboards with by a sizeable margin to any other constructor. Mercedes have also brought a new, upgraded power unit to the Italian GP with a view to the 2016 season already. As for teams like McLaren, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, their new power units have caused the three teams to rack up sizeable grid penalties for this weekends race.

But for the FP3 action, a handful of engines fired up for the wet start to test the waters. Among the toe dippers were the two Toro Rosso’s who ventured out onto the autodromo di Monza and post the first times of the day, with Verstappen leading his team-mate with a 1:34.366 but reported the track would be ready for slicks soon.

As for Sainz, a slight kick at the rear under breaking for turn one caused the Spaniard to jump to the escape road and clip the polystyrene arrow on his way through the slow-down chicane. Carlos soon returned to his garage but after venturing out on the slicks, improved on his best time with half an hour to go.

But now on the slick tyres, it was Max Verstappen struggling to get the car running perfectly as the track continued to dry. Firstly he ran slightly wide into turn one but managed to make the corner before locking up into the Ascari chicane and using the most of the curb he could in order to not return to the gravel trap he found himself in yesterday.

However with the dry line appearing quicker now with more drivers parading the circuit, Verstappen became the first to switch onto the soft tyres while Ferrari headed the leaderboard with Vettel and Raikkonen pulling away from the field. That field being without either Mercedes, who accumulated a reasonable amount of laps but without setting a flying time.

As for Ricciardo, his session came to an end with quarter of an hour remaining as he pulled off to the side of the run off at the second chicane while his mechanic on the pit wall told him not to change gear as he pulled to a halt on the brakes alone. Unfortunately for the team, the problem appeared to be engine related despite the team fitting a brand new engine for the session.

Once he was rolled off the run off and the yellows were put away, Rosberg and Hamilton set their first attacking laps. For Hamilton, he sat mixed in with the Williams’ and Ferrari’s after Bottas and Massa attacked Monza. But Rosberg now sat in P1 with a three tenth margin back to Vettel in second.

Hamilton stayed on track for a slight bit longer after Nico returned to the garage and as he attacked the track he managed to go four tenths up on his team-mate at the end of sector two but ditched the lap.

Fellow Brit, Jenson Button meanwhile had put in a time good enough for P12 but his McLaren had developed a braking problem that was causing the car to pull to the left under heavy braking. His braking problem made Jenson just one of the many drivers failing to stop in time for the first chicane and utilising the run off.

As the end of the session approached, Kvyat was hopping out of his Red Bull and leaving the track to the rest of the field as the best times began to drop quicker than ever. Firstly Bottas boosted his way into P1 just for Rosberg and then Vettel to create a six tenth gap to the Finn. But Hamilton hammered home once more to take P1 by two tenths to Vettel.

After Hamilton set a 1:24.544 to take P1, the chequered flag was preparing to be waved. But before it did so, there was still enough time for Rosberg and Bottas to cross the line for one more lap and improve on their best. Unfortunately for both, they could not demote Hamilton and Vettel from the top two as the Brit made it three from three in Italy and Ferrari demolished the gap Mercedes made on Friday.

Position Driver Gap
1 Hamilton 1:24.544
2 Vettel 0.264
3 Rosberg 0.299
4 Bottas 0.402
5 Massa 0.621
6 Maldonado 0.698
7 Raikkonen 0.700
8 Perez 0.971
9 Ericsson 1.148
10 Grosjean 1.203
11 Nasr 1.368
12 Hulkenberg 1.597
13 Alonso 2.088
14 Button 2.206
15 Stevens 3.579
16 Verstappenn 3.671
17 Kvyat 4.047
18 Sainz 4.084
19 Merhi 4.573
20 Ricciardo 5.356