Alonso inches closer to Vettel in Monza FP3

Fernando Alonso closed the gap to Sebastian Vettel in FP3 at Monza (Ferrari)
Fernando Alonso closed the gap to Sebastian Vettel in FP3 at Monza (Ferrari)

After third (and final) practice for the Italian Grand Prix, it’s still all about Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel. The World Champion topped the times again, this time by just over a quarter of a second, and this time the man in second place was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Mark Webber followed in third place for Red Bull, ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Vettel knows just how important this weekend could be for him and his team. Monza is not normally a circuit that suits Red Bull, as it is all about top speed and that has been one of the few weaknesses of Red Bull’s cars over the past few seasons. After the Italian Grand Prix, most of the remaining circuits in the season will suit the Red Bull, which means Monza is Alonso’s best chance to take points off Vettel and move the momentum in the championship back towards Ferrari.

If Vettel can win at Monza, Ferrari’s home race and traditionally Red Bull’s weakest venue, it will be morale-shattering for Ferrari and Alonso. It would also make things mathematically very difficult for Alonso. A Vettel win this weekend with Alonso second would increase the gap at the top of the championship to 53 points with 7 races remaining. That would be enough of a gap for Vettel to win the title by finishing second in each remaining race, even if Alonso were to win every time.

Mercedes have seemed a little at sea this weekend. Hamilton topped the times in FP1, but has not been in the top three since. He set the fourth fastest time in FP3, 0.352 seconds off the pace. Nico Rosberg was hardly in the session at all, as what appeared to be a gearbox issue sidelined him after he had completed just five timed laps, none of which were indicative of his true pace. He registered the slowest time in the session.

Force India had a troubled FP3 session. Paul di Resta went straight on at the final corner, Parabolica, and went nose-first into the barrier, knocking off his front wing. There was no major damage to the car, however, and he should have no trouble taking part in qualifying. Shortly after Di Resta’s crash, Adrian Sutil spun in the Ascari chicane in the other Force india.

It’s looking good for Williams this weekend, with Pastor Maldonado squeaking into the top ten in final practice, just three quarters of a second off the pace. He will be looking to qualify in the top ten if possible, and then the target will be points on Sunday.

Daniel Ricciardo is having a strong weekend for Toro Rosso, celebrating his recent signing for Red Bull by going sixth fastest in FP3, just over half a second off the pace of his 2014 team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Monza is Toro Rosso’s home race, the team being based in Italy, and it would be a welcome parting gift if Ricciardo could deliver a strong points finish this weekend.

Full results from FP3:

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

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