Sebastian Vettel has firmed as a favourite for pole position and victory at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix with the fastest time in Saturday’s final practice session before qualifying this afternoon.
The Red Bull Racing driver took a further one-tenth of a second off his best time from Friday practice – where he was fastest in FP2 – to edge out crowd favourite, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished just under 0.3 seconds slower than the German.
Conditions were again similar to those experienced yesterday, and Vettel was quick to assume provisional top spot on the timesheets and made further improvements to his benchmark lap time when he switched over to the quicker Medium-compound Pirelli tyres as the one-hour session progressed
Alonso was a big improver from Friday to Saturday – halving the gap to Vettel overnight – and the Spaniard will fancy his chances of claiming Ferrari’s first pole position of the season. The two-time World Champion managed to avoid a Red Bull 1-2 on the timesheets, bumping Mark Webber into third place by just four-hundredths of a second.
Lewis Hamilton finished the session fourth-fastest at the end of the hour, although the Mercedes driver suffered a number of off-track excursions as he explored the limits of the F1W04’s adhesion around the highest-speed circuit on the calendar. Teammate Nico Rosberg finished the session bog last, his running ended after just five laps when he was hit with an overheating issue.
Fifth and sixth-fastest were rather more surprising, with Sergio Pérez taking his McLaren to the rather giddy heights of fifth-fastest, while Daniel Ricciardo finally managed to get his Toro Rosso hooked up after a disappointing Friday to finish one spot behind. The young Australian was quickest through the speed traps as well.
Felipe Massa was seventh-quickest and the last driver under the 1m25s barrier, edging out the second McLaren of Jenson Button, who beat home Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Räikkönen, who reverts to the more conventionally-wheelbased Lotus for the remainder of the weekend. Räikkönen’s teammate Romain Grosjean was only fourteenth, struggling with a lack of grip in his E21.
Force India had a poor session and will struggle to make it into the final ten in qualifying, assuming either one – or both – of its drivers can make it past Q1. Paul di Resta suffered heavy front-end damage to his VJM06 when he had a heavy accident at the Parabolica. Teammate Adrian Sutil kept his car on the island, but his car had little pace and he was only 17th-fastest.
2013 Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:24.360||18|
|2.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:24.643||+ 0.283||13|
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:24.677||+ 0.317||22|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:24.712||+ 0.352||17|
|5.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:24.864||+ 0.504||19|
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:24.865||+ 0.505||19|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:24.995||+ 0.635||14|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:25.103||+ 0.743||15|
|9.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:25.116||+ 0.756||20|
|10.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:25.120||+ 0.760||18|
|11.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:25.136||+ 0.776||16|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:25.273||+ 0.913||21|
|13.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:25.324||+ 0.964||22|
|14.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:25.499||+ 1.139||17|
|15.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:25.660||+ 1.300||21|
|16.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:25.702||+ 1.342||19|
|17.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:26.120||+ 1.760||11|
|18.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:26.607||+ 2.247||21|
|19.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:27.172||+ 2.812||20|
|20.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:27.605||+ 3.245||18|
|21.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:27.665||+ 3.305||18|
|22.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:27.882||+ 3.462||5|