Sebastian Vettel underlined his intent ahead of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix by topping the third and final practice session at Monza.
The German had been comfortably fastest on day one, and appeared to be on course for a similarly crushing performance when he opened up a six-tenths gap over the chasing pack midway through the hour-long session, but ultimately had to settle for a two-tenths margin as Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton closed in towards the end.
Alonso gave the tifosi
something to cling onto by splitting the Red Bulls in second spot, while Hamilton gave notice that he too may be a threat for another pole position. There was bad news on the other side of the Mercedes garage, however, as Nico Rosberg sat out much of the session with mechanics swarming over – and under – his W04. The German brought up the rear of the times, some 3.4secs off the pace, after completing just five laps.
Sergio Perez gave McLaren some encouragement on the weekend of its 50th anniversary, taking sixth spot despite his right-front showing signs of blistering after one early run. Team-mate Jenson Button was eighth fastest, with Red Bull 'new boy' Daniel Ricciardo and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa between them.
Ricciardo's pace was backed up by Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne in eleventh, while Williams' Pastor Maldonado backed up his own claims that the FW35 had a good low downforce package by taking ninth, one place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Neither Lotus seemed to have the same pace as on Friday, when they finished third and fourth fastest, and Romain Grosjean was down in 14, behind the two Saubers.
Nico Hulkenberg edged Esteban Gutierrez this time around, despite complaining about his clutch, while Valtteri Bottas wound up ahead of the two Force Indias, neither of whom had a good session, with Paul di Resta appearing to be pitched into the Parabolica tyre wall shortly before Adrian Sutil had a moment of his own.
At the back, Caterham got the better of Marussia, with Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde comfortably faster than the evenly-matched Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.