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Italian GP: Vettel leads Verstappen in ultra-close FP3

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Italian GP: Vettel leads Verstappen in ultra-close FP3
By:
Sep 7, 2019, 11:09 AM

Sebastian Vettel edged Max Verstappen by just 0.032s to set the fastest time in the final Formula 1 practice session ahead of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc was the benchmark on Friday and set the initial pace in Saturday afternoon’s one-hour session.

But Leclerc made only a tiny improvement on a “useless” final run, allowing Vettel to leapfrog him for top spot and Verstappen to showcase impressive performance in his Honda-powered Red Bull.

Drivers were not allowed to take to the track until 10 minutes into the session to allow race organisers to complete fence repairs and remove a sausage kerb that had caused an enormous crash in the Formula 3 race that preceded FP3.

Leclerc hit the front after the first meaningful qualifying simulations and his 1m20.452s headed Vettel by 0.16s with 20 minutes of the session remaining.

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On their final runs, Vettel improved twice – he overhauled Leclerc on a 1m20.331s on his first flying lap, then cemented top spot with a 1m20.294s on the second.

Leclerc, by contrast, only improved by half a tenth, bemoaning it as “a bit of a useless run”.

That meant he slipped behind Verstappen, who will not contest qualifying properly because he has a grid penalty this weekend, and Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes.

Verstappen and Red Bull will be buoyed by Honda’s upgrade Spec 4 engine powering him to a lap time so close to Vettel on such a power-sensitive circuit.

Bottas nipped into third on a 1m20.403s, exactly the same time as Leclerc and ahead because he had set the laptime first.

World championship leader Lewis Hamilton was only sixth-fastest, behind a rapid lap from Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Nico Hulkenberg backed up his Renault teammate with the seventh-fastest time as both lapped within half a second of Vettel.

Alex Albon dropped his left-side wheels into the gravel exiting the second chicane on his final qualifying simulation, and so only ended up with the eighth-fastest time as he failed to improve.

“I’m amazed how much the car changed,” said a bemused Albon. “Maybe the track gripped up more but I had no grip at all.”

Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) and Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) completed the top 10.

Some laptimes were deleted during the session, including Leclerc’s second-fastest effort (at the time) with 10 minutes to go.

Lance Stroll lost his quickest time, a 1m21.554s, and fell to the back of the midfield group and only ahead of the two Williams drivers.

Session results

Cla # Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 5 Germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 14 1'20.294  
2 33 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 11 1'20.326 0.032
3 77 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 23 1'20.403 0.109
4 16 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 14 1'20.403 0.109
5 3 Australia Daniel Ricciardo Renault 11 1'20.564 0.270
6 44 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21 1'20.595 0.301
7 27 Germany Nico Hulkenberg Renault 13 1'20.752 0.458
8 23 Thailand Alex Albon Red Bull 17 1'20.827 0.533
9 99 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 15 1'20.881 0.587
10 26 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 20 1'20.945 0.651
11 55 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren 21 1'20.949 0.655
12 11 Mexico Sergio Perez Racing Point 15 1'21.003 0.709
13 10 France Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 22 1'21.073 0.779
14 4 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 21 1'21.292 0.998
15 7 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 19 1'21.325 1.031
16 20 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 16 1'21.336 1.042
17 8 France Romain Grosjean Haas 16 1'21.621 1.327
18 18 Canada Lance Stroll Racing Point 17 1'21.639 1.345
19 63 United Kingdom George Russell Williams 22 1'22.374 2.080
20 88 Poland Robert Kubica Williams 21 1'22.758 2.464
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Italian GP: Leclerc grabs pole in qualifying farce

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