Monza Practice 3: Vettel fastest, chased hard by Alonso

Sebastian Vettel fastest in FP3

Sebastian Vettel fastest in FP3

Sebastian Vettel topped the timing screens at the end of the final free practice session of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, but it appears that Fernando Alonso has managed to close the gap overnight from over half a second to a quarter of a second.

Nevertheless Vettel is looking mighty in the Red Bull at Monza, his pace on the orange band Mediums (the harder of the compounds available) is easily better than anyone else. The gap perhaps not quite as substantial with the softer (white stripe) Pirelli offering.

Vettel ended the session with a best time of  1:24.360 which was 0.283 seconds up on next best Alonso.

Ferrari will be buoyed by the fact that whatever they did in the past 24 hours appears to have helped close the gap which after FP2 was a whopping 0.877 seconds.

Fernando Alonso second fastest in FP3

Fernando Alonso second fastest in FP3

Mark Webber – enjoying his last appearance in Europe as a Formula 1 driver – was third fastest, emphasising that the world champions have a handy car in all conditions as his race pace was also impressive.

Targeting his fifth consecutive pole position is Lewis Hamilton, but on the evidence of FP3 it seems that the Mercedes driver will need to dig deep to accomplish the feat, as he is clearly struggling to get consistent speed around Monza.

Nico Rosberg’s woes were far more severe than those of his teammate, as he spent most of the session watching the TV screens as the Mercedes crew dismantled the back half of his car to resolve an overheating issue. He did five laps in the 60 minute session and was slowest of all.

Maintaining their new found form from day one were the McLaren pair with Sergio Perez ending the session fifth, and teammate Jenson Button eighth. The Woking outfit is looking stronger than they have all year.

Lewis Hamilton targeting five successive pole positions

Lewis Hamilton targeting five successive pole positions

Also in inspired form was Red Bull’s latest signing Daniel Ricciardo who was sixth fastest in the Toro Rosso, with teammate Jean Eric Vergne 11th.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa continued to lag behind Alonso, ending seventh on the timing sheets over half a second off the top pace.

Impressing on the high speed circuit was Pastor Maldonado who flung the Williams around with admiarble aggression to bag the ninth best time. Rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas was 15th.

The rot may have started at Spa-Francorchamps for Lotus, but since then things appear to have got worse as they are clearly out of sorts and out of touch with the front runners which had previously been their sparring partners.

Much was expected of the longer wheelbase E21 for Kimi Raikkonen but it proved to be not much more effective on Friday than the shorter version in Romain Grosjean’s hands. Thus the team reverted Raikkonen to the older configuration. He was tenth fastest with Grosjean down in 14th. Both drivers complained about lack of grip.

Kimi Raikkonen struggling with the Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen struggling with the Lotus

Force India were also struggling to find pace in their car, and things got worse when Paul di Resta ploughed into the tyre wall as he went straight when entering Parabolica. He radioed to his team: “Something broke there.”

It is still very tight up at the top, with less than a second separating the top 13. But at the very top it looks as if the scene is set for Alonso versus Vettel shootout for pole position, unless of course Hamilton has another inspired afternoon… (GP247)

Subbed by AJN.

Italian Grand Prix, Free Practice 3 – Saturday, 7 September 2013

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:24.360 18
2 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.643 0.283 13
3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:24.677 0.317 22
4 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.712 0.352 17
5 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.864 0.504 19
6 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:24.865 0.505 19
7 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.995 0.635 14
8 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.103 0.743 15
9 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:25.116 0.756 20
10 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:25.120 0.760 18
11 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:25.136 0.776 16
12 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.273 0.913 21
13 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.324 0.964 22
14 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:25.499 1.139 17
15 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:25.660 1.300 21
16 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:25.702 1.342 19
17 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:26.120 1.760 11
18 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:26.607 2.247 21
19 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:27.172 2.812 20
20 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.605 3.245 18
21 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:27.665 3.305 18
22 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:27.822 3.462 5
Content on by: staff & contributors, Reuters syndication, GMM service, Getty Images, Formula 1 teams, sponsors & organisations.