Vettel and Hamilton split by 0.081s in Monza FP3

Image by Steven Tee/LAT

Vettel and Hamilton split by 0.081s in Monza FP3

Formula 1

Vettel and Hamilton split by 0.081s in Monza FP3

Title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were separated by just 0.081s in the final practice session for the Italian Grand Prix.

Fresh from his victory in the Belgian Grand Prix that cut Hamilton’s championship advantage to 17 points, Vettel set the pace in FP3 at Monza with a 1m20.509s. While Ferrari’s power unit gains this season should prove even more beneficial at the high-speed circuit, Mercedes was within 0.1s as Hamilton was second fastest, setting the pair up for a close battle in qualifying this afternoon.

Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest and only 0.092s slower than Hamilton, with Valtteri Bottas unable to match his teammate’s pace in fourth as his best lap of 1m21.112s left him over 0.6s adrift of Vettel after an error at the first chicane.

On a track where Red Bull expects to struggle compared to the front two teams, Max Verstappen was an encouraging fifth, just over 0.2s off Bottas and nearly three quarters of a second clear of Kevin Magnussen in sixth. Esteban Ocon also got ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the final practice session, with the Australian focusing on race pace due to a power unit penalty that will leave him starting from the back of the grid.

Charles Leclerc and Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10, with Sauber, Haas, Force India, Toro Rosso and Renault all having at least one driver within half a second in what looks set to be another close battle for a place in Q3.

Marcus Ericsson was able to return to action after his heavy crash in FP2 on Friday, with the Swede taking a new chassis and internal combustion engine (ICE). The chassis passed scrutineering after Sauber broke the curfew preparing it overnight, but as the ICE is his fourth of the season Ericsson takes a 10-place grid penalty as a result.

The two McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were 17th and 18th respectively but competitive enough to target a spot in Q2 at least, while Nico Hulkenberg — already set to start from the back of the grid as a result of his grid penalty for causing the first-lap crash in Spa and then taking a new power unit — was limited to just 10 laps as his DRS stuck open. Renault kept the German in the pits while investigating the issue, leaving him 19th ahead of Brendon Hartley at the flag.

Morning rain cleared to allow running to take place on slick tires, but as was the case in Belgium last weekend there remains a threat of wet weather for qualifying.

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