Vettel stays fastest in final practice
7 September 2013 – Sebastian Vettel continued his pace-setting form during final practice for the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday morning. The Red Bull driver, who produced a time of 1:24.360 to shave almost one tenth off his previous benchmark, led Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by 0.283 seconds, with outgoing team-mate Mark Webber in third.
Similarly pleasant temperatures to those experienced 24 hours ago ensured optimal track conditions as the pit lane opened. Although he was one of the last drivers to head out on a run, Vettel wasted no time in getting up to speed and immediately took the top spot away from his rivals, strengthening his position as the hour developed.
When the switch to the Medium compound finally arrived with ten minutes remaining, the reigning World Champion unsurprisingly kept his lead. But there will be reason for Alonso and those behind to feel optimistic ahead of this afternoon's grid-deciding session, with the lead gap of 0.623 seconds on Friday cut by more than three tenths.
Lewis Hamilton overcame a number of off-track excursions to lead Mercedes' charge in fourth, but team-mate Nico Rosberg enters qualifying on the back foot after being struck with an overheating issue. Sergio Pérez followed for McLaren, while Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo topped the speed traps en route to sixth position.
Felipe Massa was the final driver to break the 1m25s barrier, the Ferrari man edging out Jenson Button. Pastor Maldonado put Williams inside the top ten for the first time this weekend, placing just ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. The latter's Lotus team-mate, Romain Grosjean, struggled to 14th and vented over the radio that he had "no grip."
Paul di Resta suffered the biggest incident of the morning, his Force India snapping away upon entry to the high-speed Parabolica curve. The Scot, whose car picked up significant front-end damage, wound up behind team-mate Adrian Sutil in 17th, with the squad lacking pace compared to key rivals Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber.
Charles Pic led the back-of-the-field battle for Caterham, lapping more than half a second quicker than team-mate Giedo van der Garde. Jules Bianchi edged out fellow Marussia driver Max Chilton, while the aforementioned Rosberg brought up the rear.
Saturday afternoon's qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix begins at 2pm local time (GMT +2) and can be tracked via the GPUpdate.net live report feature