Lewis Hamilton has vaulted to the top of the practice timesheets in the third and final practice session of the Italian Grand Prix, and his feat was all the more impressive as he achieved this without an ‘F-duct’ fitted to his McLaren.
Running with the downforce totally trimmed from his McLaren, he Briton edged out Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel by less than five-hundredths of a second in a very competitive practice session that the teams use to determine final tweaks to use for this afternoon’s qualifying session.
Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa (who enjoyed a high-speed moment through the Lesmo gravel) and Jenson Button rounded out the top-five, with Button winding up just 0.226 seconds slowed while running his McLaren with the ‘F-duct’ and more rear wing than his team-mate.
However, it was more bad news for Mark Webber, who lost more running time when he ground to a halt after nine tours of the Monza circuit.
Regardless of their set-up direction, McLaren faces itself with the enviable decision to choosing which set-up option to go with, after effectively dominating the final 60-minute practice session.
Hamilton had initially been the quicker of the two, but Button was able to move to the top of the leaderboard with a soft-tyre run, before Alonso created some delight for the tifosi when he moved to the top of the timing monitors with two hot laps in the 1m22.6s range.
Then, with just under two minutes to go, Hamilton moved back to the top of the order with a great lap and some assistance with a tow from Adrian Sutil’s Force India along the back straight to post a 1:22.498.
Alonso attempted one final crack at wresting control of the session from Hamilton, only to find Kamui Kobayashi dawdling on the racing line through the Parabolica – the point at which Alonso was particularly quick on the circuit. This prompted much Latin fist-waving from the fiery Spaniard, and it also saw him deposed to third place when Vettel was able to sneak into second place on his final hot lap.
Behind the top-five runners, Nico Rosberg took a steady sixth-quickest for Mercedes GP, while Webber’s stoppage at the first chicane marked this as the second session this weekend in which he has been stymied by mechanical issues.
The ever-improving Williams outfit had another positive session, with Nico Hülkenberg outpacing the more experienced Rubens Barrichello for the first time in awhile; the pair was split by Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil.
2010 Italian GP Practice 3 Session Times:
[Original image via LAT]