Title rivals catching up with Sebastian Vettel after final Italian Grand Prix practice

 

Sebastian Vettel retained his advantage in practice for the Italian Grand Prix but his rivals were at least a little closer after the final session.

Reigning triple world champion Vettel was out on his own on Friday, with his nearest challenger over six tenths of a second adrift around the high-speed citadel that is Monza.

Vettel managed to shave another tenth of a second off his quickest lap from Friday in the closing hour-long run, clocking a time of one minute and 24.360 seconds in his Red Bull.

With Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo looking on from the pit wall, Fernando Alonso stepped up to challenge Vettel, finishing just under three tenths of a second down, so halving Vettel's advantage.

Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber was 0.317secs adrift, with Lewis Hamilton recovering from seemingly another difficult Friday to finish 0.352secs down for Mercedes.

Hamilton and Vettel have locked out the last three front rows, with the former on pole at the last four grands prix and doing enough to suggest he is in the hunt to make it five in a row.

McLaren continue to show considerable improvement at this race, with Sergio Perez and Jenson Button fifth and eighth on the timesheet, the latter three quarters of a second off Vettel's pace.

Sandwiched in between were Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo - confirmed this week as joining Vettel from next season - and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa.

Williams' Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus completed the top 10, with the Finn 0.760secs down, a position he cannot afford to repeat in qualifying if he is to close the 63-point gap to Vettel.

Paul Di Resta's mechanics, meanwhile, faced a race against time to turn around the Scot's Force India for qualifying after he plunged nose first into a tyre wall at Parabolica.

Attempting to turn into the fast right-hander just over half an hour into the session, Di Resta instead found himself running straight on across a gravel trap before his momentum was halted by the barrier.

Following the shunt, Di Resta radioed back to the team suggesting a fault with the car as he said: "Something broke there!"

In what proved to be a worrying few minutes for Force India, Adrian Sutil spun through the Ascari chicane shortly after, with the end result being the German down in 16th and Di Resta 17th.

Max Chilton was 21st, a fraction of a second behind Marussia team-mate Jules Bianchi, with Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes bringing up the rear.

The German sustained a hydraulic issue that restricted him to just five laps.

PA

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