Lewis Hamilton maintained his dominance of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship by ending the three-day pre-Belgian and Italian Grands Prix test at Monza atop the timing screens - sending out a warning to Ferrari that he clearly intends spoiling the Scuderia's party on home turf in a fortnight's time.

The Briton took over from McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen for the final day, spending 97 laps continuing the Woking-based outfit's focus on the evaluation of mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups to close out proceedings just over four tenths clear of title rival Kimi Raikkonen - and encouraged for the forthcoming races.

The defending F1 World Champion, for his part, similarly concentrated on set-up work, covering 79 laps of the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza before Luca Badoer conducts a final shakedown of the scarlet F2008s that will be taken to Spa-Francorchamps next weekend at Maranello's Fiorano test track on Tuesday.

"It was a good day," Raikkonen underlined, "during which we looked to fine-tune the car for this track as well as trying a few new things. I would say we have done a good job, even if it is too early to say what the situation will be here during the race weekend. It was a pleasure to meet with President Montezemolo, who visited the track today.

"Now we have to try and do everything as well as possible to get back to winning again, starting with the race in Spa. The world championship? I will give it my best shot, and then we can count the points at the end."

Home hero Giancarlo Fisichella was a popular third-quickest for the improving Force India, the experienced Italian covering a marathon 114 laps as he conducted set-up and wing level evaluations in a bid to optimise balance and braking over the kerbs, ahead of what will be his twelfth Italian Grand Prix. The VJM01 once again ran faultlessly, allowing the Roman to complete more than 600km and bring the Silverstone-based squad's total test mileage to more than 1,700km.

"Today we made some positive steps forward for the Italian Grand Prix," the 35-year-old stated, "particularly with the balance and set-up. I could push, particularly in the afternoon, and the pace over the longer runs was also good.

"You never know what the other teams are doing with their own programmes, but I think the race will be very close between us and Honda. I think we've made good progress here."

"A very positive end to the test," agreed Force India chief race and test engineer Dominic Harlow, "with again good reliability. We've had a very productive week here, completing all of our programme and accumulating some useful information to prepare for the Italian Grand Prix.

"It's always a pleasure to test in Monza, and thanks to the drivers, test team and particularly Ferrari, Bridgestone and our other partners for all their efforts. We've had a very useful test that has helped to build on the step in performance that we saw in Valencia."

Ahead of what will be his final Italian Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing veteran David Coulthard lapped fifth-quickest behind Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, after taking over from team-mate Mark Webber at the wheel of the RB4. The experienced Scot was able to find a reasonable balance on his car, as well as fitting in some performance-related work - though only when the track was at its hottest and, therefore, slowest.

"This three-day test has produced positive results for us," commented the Milton Keynes-based concern's chief test engineer Ian Morgan. "We can be particularly satisfied that the car ran 100 per cent reliably on-track throughout and we completed over 1,800 kilometres, the most of any team here, with today being particularly busy."

Former double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso wound up sixth-fastest for Renault of the ten drivers present, going through set-up and race preparation for the low-downforce Monza circuit, as well as looking at suspension work to improve the R28's behaviour through the chicanes.

"Another valuable day in Monza," the Spaniard affirmed afterwards, "and we have learnt some interesting things that will help us prepare for the race here in a couple of weeks' time. We tried lots of different things with the set-up and then did some suspension work in the afternoon, as using the curbs is important here. I think we have taken the car in the right direction, and we have a good basis to build on over the race weekend."

"We spent the day looking at the set-up and completing all the usual Monza-specific work," added the R?gie's chief test engineer Christian Silk, "because this place is so different to all the other tracks that we run at. We continued with our race preparation programme of collecting data and found some very positive directions with the set-up, so we are in reasonable shape going into the race here."

Scuderia Toro Rosso's S?bastien Bourdais saw his day interrupted by no fewer than five red flags and a mechanical problem on his STR3, but still managed to complete 77 laps of tyre comparisons, brake evaluation, testing out the Monza-specific aero configuration and general set-up work for the small Faenza-based squad. The French multiple Champ Car king ultimately ended up just shy of a second off the leading pace.

"In general, this three-day test has gone well and produced some quite promising results," remarked STR chief test engineer Gianvito Amico. "Our focus was always on reliability and consistency rather than looking for performance, and the results would indicate that we are in good shape for the upcoming races."

Eighth-quickest at the end of proceedings was Timo Glock, driving the legendary Italian circuit for the first time in his Toyota as he got to grips with an aero package on the TF108 specifically geared to high speeds and low downforce.

The young German concentrated on finding better turn-in capability and a brake balance that he was comfortable with whilst also adjusting the car to cope with Monza's notoriously high kerbs, but found his efforts curtailed just half an hour from the chequered flag when he lost control at high-speed in the second Lesmo and clipped a tyre barrier.

"We will have to analyse in detail what the problem was," the reigning GP2 Series Champion stressed. "Until the accident the test was going okay, but we had a few problems around midday. Then in the afternoon I think track conditions were a bit slower, and we couldn't really make strong progress.

"The crash was not nice and I'm not sure what happened. We'd had a bit of understeer and the kerb-riding was not too comfortable, but I wasn't aware of making a mistake. We will have to have a close look at the data."

"It was unfortunate that Timo went off just before the end," added the Cologne-based outfit's test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer, "but if it has to happen at all, better then than at the beginning of the day. We had already worked through the majority of the schedule, which was aimed at familiarising Timo with the specific demands of Monza, which are quite different to other circuits.

"We did a lot of experimentation with brake feel, ride heights and general aerodynamic set-up. It has been a productive three days with consistent conditions and no weather interruptions. I want to thank everyone for their efforts; we have collected a lot of data and will take it all into account before the Italian Grand Prix here next month."

Following Nick Heidfeld's headline-stealing and no doubt confidence-boosting performance to top the timesheets on day two, team-mate Robert Kubica was a rather more low-key ninth for BMW-Sauber on day three, as the Pole went through mechanical and aerodynamic set-up work and tyre testing.

The 23-year-old was another to make contact with the track's tyre barriers early on, and though only minor damage ensued to the left front of the car, repairs were time-consuming and the subsequent red flags and an electrical issue meant it was a frustrating final day for the Munich and Hinwil-based concern, with Kubica racking up just 57 laps on the board - easily the fewest of any driver present.

Rounding out the runners, meanwhile, was Honda's Jenson Button, the Briton lapping just under 1.4 seconds adrift of compatriot Hamilton as he focussed on suspension evaluation on the RA108, in addition to aero and set-up work and tyre comparisons.

"This week's test has been useful in developing our direction for the next two races," stated the 28-year-old. "We have worked on finalising the downforce packages required for Spa and Monza, along with an initial study of the tyre compounds.

"Although we have made some progress, the balance of the car is not where I would like it to be, particularly for Monza, and we need to analyse the data carefully to make improvements before the race weekend."

"We focused on evaluating the aero set-ups required for Spa and Monza this week," added team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who drove on the first two days of the test. "We were able to achieve a good balance, although there is further progress to be made on performance. We also ran the two Bridgestone tyres which will be used for those races, along with developments to our braking system which proved to be positive."

"Both drivers had their work split this week between preparation for the next race in Spa and the subsequent race at Monza," summarised the Brackley-based concern's team principal Ross Brawn. "Monza is a unique circuit with very high-speed and low-downforce characteristics, which gives the driver difficulties in the big braking areas and with traction out of the slow corners.

"Our drivers suffered all the classic problems that we habitually experience at Monza, and without traction control, engine driveability adds another dimension to the challenge. We have not achieved a perfect set-up and balance this week, and have further work to do in analysing the data before we return for the race in two weeks' time."

To see the testing times in full, click here


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