Sainz narrowly leads Verstappen in FP3 at F1 Italian GP; Lawson impresses with P12

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Final practice for the 2023 Italian GP got underway in very hot conditions and clear skies at Monza.

After ending his practice two run on the wall at the exit of the Alboreto corner, Sergio Perez was one of the first drivers out on track, along with Lance Stroll – the Aston Martin driver yet to complete any meaningful running this weekend, after Felipe Drugovich took over his AMR23 in FP1, and a fuel system issue curtailed his running on the first lap of FP2.

The Mexican’s first flying lap on the soft tyres was clocked in a 1:22.662, just over 1.3s slower than Friday’s fastest time set by Carlos Sainz.

Sainz’s first lap on FP3 was exactly equal to Perez’s time, down to the last millisecond, continuing the trend of strong Ferrari pace at their home venue, but both trailed Lando Norris’ McLaren by nearly 0.15s.

With the Alternative Tyre Allocation (ATA) returning for a second time in 2023, teams faced a somewhat different run plan to accommodate the fact that there are less tyres available and to prepare for the Q1 and Q2 sessions, which mandate the use of hard and medium tyres, respectively.

Those times were quickly obliterated by championship leader Max Verstappen, who is gunning for his 10th consecutive victory this weekend, and set a time of a 1:21.838, putting him over six-tenths clear of his nearest rivals as the session reached its 10-minute mark.

Lewis Hamilton had a lock-up into turn one on his first flying lap, but managed to get going without any issues to set the third fastest time on his next lap. Hulkenberg and Piastri repeated it later in the session.

Traffic issues continued to be an issue on Saturday, with Yuki Tsunoda finding Carlos Sainz going very slowly on a charge lap right in the middle of Curva Grande.

The FIA has set a maximum time of 1:41s for all qualifying laps between SC lines 1 and 2, including entering and leaving the pits. This is to prevent drivers from going too slowly on the track trying to position themselves well to open the next lap and causing traffic jams, like those seem in previous years and in the junior categories.

With 20 minutes of the session gone, the order of the top 10 was: Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Norris, Alonso, Russell, Leclerc, Gasly and Albon.

Kevin Magnussen set a time good enough for third fastest as the session approached halfway, but was soon beaten by Alexander Albon’s Williams, which set a time just over 0.4s slower than Max Verstappen’s earlier benchmark.

Lewis Hamilton then logged a 1:21.453 to take spot from his arch rival. Although Verstappen responded with a 1:20.998, it was Carlos Sainz who ended the session fastest thanks to a 1:20.912. He was the quickest driver in the middle sector.

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Charles Leclerc was P4 after a mistake on his first lap in Lesmo 2 meant we did not see what he could deliver in full. Russell, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Albon and Perez completed the top 10.

Bad luck struck for Perez as he couldn’t do a final qualifying simulation due to a leak on his power unit.

Both McLaren drivers had quite the adventures in FP3. Norris had to avoid a slow moving Alfa Romeo between the two Lesmos, with Oscar Piastri going through the gravel on the exit of the second chicane.

At the end of the session, he once again had contact with Carlos Sainz in the first chicane as the Spaniard failed to move out of the way when coming out of the pits

Another visitor to the gravel was Valtteri Bottas as the Finn went off at the Ascari chicane.

It was a hugely impressive session for Liam Lawson as he clocked the 12th fastest time, 0.001s ahead of Yuki Tsunoda.