FP3: Vettel leads Verstappen by 0.032s in shortened final practice
Sebastian Vettel occupied the top spot in Saturday’s final Monza practice, just 0.032s in front of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton third and sixth respectively, as just a second covered the top 14 drivers.
Running was delayed for 10 minutes as track repairs were completed following a crash at the end of the preceding F3 race. Mercedes then began their race simulations immediately, but Ferrari stayed in the garage and only emerged with 40 minutes of the session remaining. Still, Vettel went P1 with his first flying lap, and improved half an hour later, a short run on soft tyres yielding a best time of 1m 20.294s.
Behind Verstappen, who will start from the rear of the grid thanks to engine penalties, was Bottas, 0.109s off the leading pace. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set exactly the same time as Bottas, but the Finn finished P3 by virtue of having set his lap first.
Daniel Ricciardo starred for Renault, finishing ahead of Hamilton as the Australian driver managed a fastest lap just 0.270s slower than Vettel’s.
The timesheets showed a gap of a second separating the top 14 drivers, with Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and Renault occupying the top eight spots – split by just half a second, with Red Bull’s Alex Albon finishing behind seventh-place Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault.
Rounding out the top 10 was the ninth-place Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, hoping to make amends for his Belgian Grand Prix crash, and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, 0.651s off top spot.
A number of laps were deleted as drivers put all four wheels beyond the white line at Parabolica, where a sausage kerb has been removed from the run-off area following the aforementioned F3 accident.
Those track limits are something they will have to be watchful of this afternoon in qualifying – which looks set to be very competitive indeed.