Lewis Hamilton Maintains Monza Momentum Over Nico Rosberg
File image of Lewis Hamilton. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton stayed on top in his high-speed duel with Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg in Saturday's third and final practice for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.
The defending three-time champion, seeking to complete a hat-trick of Italian wins with his 50th career victory, clocked the fastest lap by nearly four-tenths of a second as the two ‘silver arrows’ dominated again at the Autodromo Nazionale.
Briton Hamilton’s best lap in one minute and 22.008 seconds was 0.393 seconds beyond Rosberg and 0.938 seconds clear of four-time former champion Sebastian Vettel who was third ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn was more than 1.1 seconds adrift of Hamilton’s searing pace as, even with their latest updated power units, Ferrari were unable to match Mercedes’ levels of down-force and all-round performance.
Valtteri Bottas was fifth ahead of his retirement-bound Williams team-mate Felipe Massa with the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in seventh and eighth.
Mexican Sergio Perez was ninth for Force India ahead of compatriot Esteban Gutierrez of Haas.
On another near-perfect late summer's day in northern Italy, the American team were early starters and, after 12 minutes, produced the first major incident when Frenchman Romain Grosjean went off at the Ascari chicane.
His car was ‘beached’ in the gravel trap and a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed for four minutes. Almost immediately, on resumption, Verstappen baulked Rosberg on the racing line at the entry to the second Lesmo.
“What on earth was that?” said Rosberg.
Verstappen’s driving remained under close scrutiny following much criticism of his aggressive ‘defensive’ moves in last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, after which both Ferrari drivers criticised his performance.
The Dutchman was called in to meet Race Director Charlie Whiting on Friday and given a “gentle warning”. His behaviour was not discussed at the drivers’ briefing in the evening, but Hamilton said that he “deserved a break.”
"He has grabbed his opportunity with both hands, he is only 18, give the guy a break. What were any of us doing at that age?
"He has won a Grand Prix. The pressure on him is something that most people will not comprehend…
"I just see a young, talented kid who just seems to have an enormous amount of raw talent. At 18, maturity hasn’t caught up with your ability."
Hamilton himself demonstrated his maturity with a well-judged series of early laps as he went top of the times for Mercedes ahead of Rosberg until Vettel took second after half an hour.
Ten minutes later, Rosberg went top briefly only for Hamilton to regain control with his best lap, both drivers running on super-soft tyres to simulate conditions for qualifying later on Saturday.