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.