Formula One Monza – Lewis Hamilton predicted that things would be tight at Monza

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Lewis Hamilton predicted that things would be tight at Monza, and he was proved right as he headed the times in Saturday’s third practice by a mere thousandth of a second from Fernando Alonso.

Red Bull were left in only 11th and 12th positions as McLaren and Ferrari slugged it out, with Force India, Mercedes and Sauber giving chase.

Hamilton eventually trimmed down to 1m 24.578s as Alonso’s 1m 24.579s just fell short, while Paul di Resta leapt up to third in the final stages with 1m 24.849s for Force India. Tragically, the Scot has to take a five-place grid penalty this afternoon following a gearbox change. Behind him, Felipe Massa backed Alonso with 1m 24.909s from Jenson Button on 1m 24.994s and Nico Rosberg on 1m 25.036s.

Sergio Perez was right in there with 1m 25.160s as Sauber sorted some of their handling problems overnight. Lotus again lacked ultimate pace, but Kimi Raikkonen was eighth on 1m 25.255s from Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India on 1m 25.289s, Pastor Maldonado on 1m 25.383s for Williams, and the troubled Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel on 1m 25.389s and 1m 25.406s respectively. The German pulled off towards the end with alternator problems.

Then came Williams’ Bruno Senna, on 1m 25.461s after a bit of an altercation with 15th fastest Kamui Kobayashi; the Sauber driver was still struggling with his C31 and recorded 1m 25.689s, with Michael Schumacher just ahead in a Mercedes that was troubled by lack of KERS en route to 1m 25.563s. At least Schumacher has avoided a grid-place penalty as Mercedes managed to change an offending cog in his gearbox rather than having to replace the unit.

Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne sandwiched Jerome D’Ambrosio; the Toro Rossos lacked the speed they showed at Spa last weekend as the Australian lapped in 1m 25.706s to the Frenchman’s 1m 26.003s, while the Lotus stand-in managed 1m 25.973s.

Heikki Kovalainen was again ahead of Caterham partner Vitaly Petrov, 1m 26.657s to 1m 27.267s, while Charles Pic headed Timo Glock, 1m 27.454s to 1m 27.728s at Marussia. Glock had a new engine installed, before Marussia took it out again and replaced it with the original unit.

At the back, Narain Karthikeyan headed HRT team mate Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 28.035s to 1m 28.384s. – Formula 1