Sebastian Vettel outpaces Lewis Hamilton in final practice
Italian Grand Prix - FP3

Sebastian Vettel outpaces Lewis Hamilton in final practice

Championship contenders Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton look set for a head-to-head battle for pole position at the Italian Grand Prix after they were split by just 0.081s in final practice.

Hamilton has taken pole position at Monza for the past four years, but his single-lap dominance at the circuit is likely to be challenged by Vettel on Saturday afternoon. On their quick laps on super-soft tyres, the Ferrari driver held the advantage in the second and third sectors while Hamilton had a slim margin in the first sector, but overall Vettel just held the edge with a fastest time of 1:20.509.

Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest in the second Ferrari, 0.173s off his teammate, while Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes was a further 0.430s adrift. Bottas locked up at the first chicane on his first attempt on super-soft tyres and may have had a flat spot on the front right when he set his fastest time of 1:21.112.

Red Bull has looked uncompetitive all weekend on Monza's long straights, but Max Verstappen still managed to get within 0.276s of Bottas with his quick lap. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo opted not to spend too much time refining his single-lap setup and instead focused on race pace as an engine penalty means he will start from the back of the grid regardless of his qualifying performance.

That allowed Kevin Magnussen move into the top six for Haas ahead of Esteban Ocon' Force India, with Ricciardo's best effort from earlier in the session enough to secure eighth. Sauber driver Charles Leclerc was ninth fastest for the second session in a row and beat Haas' Romain Grosjean, who in turn held a slender margin over the second Force India of Sergio Perez in 11th.

Pierre Gasly was 12th fastest for Toro Rosso ahead of the Renault of Carlos Sainz and the two Williams drivers of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll, who are having a slightly better weekend than usual at the high-speed Monza circuit.

Marcus Ericsson returned to action for the first time since his huge accident at the start of second practice on Friday. His Sauber team had to break F1's paddock curfew to repair his car overnight -- one of two curfew exemptions allowed per season -- but Ericsson himself showed no side effects from the 220mph crash less than 24 hours earlier.

The two McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne endured another disappointing session and were only faster than Nico Hulkenberg, who had to stop early due to his Renault's DRS jamming open, and Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley.

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