Lewis Hamilton sets pace ahead of qualifying at Italian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton sets pace ahead of qualifying at Italian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton completed a practice hat-trick to lay down another impressive marker to his Formula One rivals.

The world champion, who finished top in both sessions on Friday, again led the way in the teams’ final run before qualifying for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton during third practice today. Picture: AP

Hamilton posted a best lap of one minute 24.544secs to edge out Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to the frustration of the Italian fans. Nico Rosberg was third, three tenths adrift of his Mercedes team-mate.

Overnight rain meant the drivers took to a damp Monza circuit on intermediate tyres. But with the sun out and the track beginning to dry, the Toro Rosso pair of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz were the first to make the move from intermediates to slicks with 30 minutes of the one-hour session gone.

The rest of the drivers followed suit and it was not long before there was a familiar team at the top of the standings.

It was Rosberg, whose wife Vivian gave birth to their first baby on Monday, who set the initial pace in the early dry running. Vettel, under the watching eye of Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat CEO, then trumped the Mercedes driver to the delight of the Tifosi.

But with the session drawing to a close, Hamilton did as he so often does, and stormed to the top of the timings.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo had earlier stopped on track. The Australian, who will start at the back of the grid for Sunday’s race after a 25-place penalty following an engine change and raft of new components, was urged not to change gear and apply the brakes as he rolled to a stop.

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were fourth and fifth respectively for Williams. The Lotus of Pastor Maldonado, Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the Force India of Sergio Perez, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Lotus driver Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10.

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