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Hamilton nips Alonso to claim FP3

8 September 2012

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton edged Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso by the narrowest margin possible in F1 to top the third and final free practice session ahead of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.

The Briton initially moved to the head of the times as the session ground into action after a 15-minute lull, taking top spot from Sauber's Sergio Perez, and remained there through to the halfway point, when Alonso, having moved up to second spot to split the McLaren drivers, appeared to benefit from a tow to move a tenth in front of his former team-mate.

Hamilton was not to be out-done, however, and with just five minutes remaining, capitalised on his qualifying simulation to drop a thousandth below the Spaniard's benchmark and move back to the top of the pile. There was no repeat of the problems that afflicted the championship leader on Friday - when he suffered engine and brake problems - and Hamilton also enjoyed a trouble-free run as he put recent rumours about his future to the back of his mind.

Instead, it was team-mate Jenson Button who was left scratching his head, having to take time out mid-session while his engineers worked on the #3 MP4-27. The break was temporary, however, and Button returned to complete his session, even though he was subsequently pushed out of P3 and down to fifth at the chequered flag.

In his place came Paul di Resta, the Scot bouncing back from a pre-session gearbox change that will earn him a five-place grid penalty to underline the potency of Mercedes power at Monza, and Felipe Massa, who continued to show his best form in front of the tifosi to slot into fourth. Button was followed by Nico Rosberg, Perez, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado, as neither Red Bull driver cracked the top ten. While Mark Webber made through the hour without any apparent problems - other than a lack of pace - team-mate Sebastian Vettel was forced to pull off in the final minute with what appeared to be an electrical problem.

The German only just edged Williams' Bruno Senna, who ended the session ahead of Michael Schumacher, as the seven-time champion's frustrating practice sessions continued with KERS failure that deprived him of the power boost necessary to move up the order. That left the German down amongst the midfield runners, ahead only of Kamui Kobayashi and the Toro Rossos, where Daniel Ricciardo in particular appeared to be at odds with the handing of his machine, before the usual suspects brought up the rear in the order Caterham, Marussia and HRT.


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