LOOKING STRONG AT MONZA: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton set the fastest times in all three practice sessions at the Italian GP. Image: AP / Ronald Zak
MONZA, Italy - Lewis Hamilton topped the times again for Mercedes ahead, for a change, of local hope Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in Saturday morning's final free practice ahead of Sunday's (August 6) Italian Grand Prix.
In a slow-burning session on a circuit that dried gradually after heavy overnight thunderstorms, the newly-blond defending two-time world champion clocked a best lap time of one minute and 24.544 seconds, outpacing the four-time former champion by 0.264 seconds.
FERRARI USING UPGRADED ENGINE PACKAGE
Hamilton also led both practices Friday (August 4).
Nico Rosberg, appearing to be a little disappointed at failing to take his customary second spot again after doing so in both sessions on Friday (, was third behind his compatriot in the second Mercedes.
It was the first time in four race weekends that the Mercedes team had not taken first and second in the third practice session ahead of qualifying - a clear signal of hope for Ferrari at their home event where they are running with an upgraded engine package.
For the 30-year-old Hamilton, however, it was business as usual as he took an early look at the conditions in his 50th Grand Prix for Mercedes with an inspection lap before remaining in the garage until he clocked his best time on soft tyres in the final minutes.
By then, the high-speed Autodromo Nazional circuit had dried considerably and encouraged some serious commitment from the front-runners with Vettel's showing, in particular, suggesting that qualifying later on Saturday may be a closer run affair than expected.
Finn Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest for Williams ahead of his team-mate Felipe Massa, the British team having followed their usual habit of running with a heavier fuel load that disguised their true potential on Friday.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado was sixth for Lotus ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, Sergio Perez of Force India and Marcus Ericsson of Sauber. Romain Grosjean was 10th for Lotus.
The session was run in cool and damp conditions until the sun broke through and the temperature rose past 20o celcisu in the final minutes.
RICCIARDO SUFFERED HYDRAULIC FAILURE
The two struggling McLaren men Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, consigned by grid penalties to the back of the grid for taking more new Honda power units for Sunday's race, were in 13th and 14th places.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo pulled up during the session after a hydraulics failure at the second chicane and wound up 20th and last in his Red Bull.
He also will be taking a new engine, his seventh of the year - the McLaren men are on their ninth - and will be penalised.
By contract, Hamilton and Rosberg, are on only their third engines of the season and making the best of their upgraded performance on the season's most demanding 'power' circuit at Italy's self-styled 'temple of speed.'
Qualifying scheduled for 2pm (SA-time), with legions of red-clad Ferrari fans were still streaming into the Royal park that surrounds the Monza circuit.
2015 Italian GP third practice results 1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min24.544
2. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min24.808
3. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min24.843
4. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min24.946
5. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 1min25.165
6. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus 1min25.242
7. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min25.244
8. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 1min25.515
9. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber AG 1min25.692
10. Romain Grosjean (France)Lotus 1min25.747
11. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber AG 1min25.912
12. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min26.141
13. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1min26.632
14. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min26.750
15. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia 1min28.123
16. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 1min28.215
17. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull 1min28.591
18. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 1min28.628
19. Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia 1min29.117
20. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 1min29.900