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Hamilton quickest on final day at Monza

NEWS STORY
29/08/2008

Serving clear notice that he intends hanging on to his World Championship lead, despite fears that the forthcoming race at the Autodromo Nazionale will favour Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets on the final day of testing at Monza.

The English youngster, who took over from Heikki Kovalainen, picked up where Thursday's programme concluded. He continued the evaluation of mechanical and aero set-ups - which according to the team leaves it "encouraged for the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix".

Hamilton completed 97 laps on his way to posting a best time of 1:22.967, the only driver to break the 1:22s barrier.

Second quickest, and 0.404s off Hamilton's pace was Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn worked on finding the best set-up for the car for the Monza race, as well as on-going development of aerodynamic and mechanical solutions for the remainder of the season.

"It was a good day, during which we looked to fine tune the car for this track as well as trying a few new things," said the World Champion. "I would say we have done a good job, even if it is too early to say what the situation will be here during the race weekend.

"It was a pleasure to meet with President Montezemolo, who visited the track today," he added. "Now we have to try and do everything as well as possible to get back to winning again, starting with the race in Spa. The World Championship? I will give it my best shot and then we can count the points at the end."

A surprise third was Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India, the Italian finishing 0.665s off Hamilton's pace. The Italian continued the evaluation of set-ups and wing levels specifically for this race, his home Grand Prix, together with work to optimise balance and braking over the kerbs. Again the VJM01 ran faultlessly, allowing Fisichella to complete more than 600km and bring the total test mileage to over 1,700km.

The team will now return to Silverstone to integrate the test's findings into its race preparations for the Italian Grand Prix and the next event on the calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix, in just over a week's time.

"Today we made some positive steps forward for the Italian Grand Prix," said Fisichella, "particularly with the balance and set-up. I could push, particularly in the afternoon and the pace over the longer runs was also good. You never know what the other teams are doing with their own programmes, but I think the race will be very close between us and Honda. I think we've made good progress here."

"A very positive end to the test, again with good reliability," added Dominic Harlow. "We've had a very productive week here, completing all our programme and accumulating some useful information to prepare for the Italian Grand Prix. It's always a pleasure to test in Monza and thanks to the drivers, test team and particularly Ferrari, Bridgestone and our other partners for all their efforts. We've had a very useful test that has helped to build on the step in performance that we saw in Valencia."

Just 0.002s off Fisichella's pace was Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams, as the Grove outfit continues to show progress here.

The busiest man today was David Coulthard, as Red Bull attempts to get its season back on track. On the agenda was pre-Italian GP race preparation, with the Scot concentrating on testing mechanical set-ups specifically for Monza, and finding a reasonable balance on the RB4. Some performance related work was carried out in the afternoon, when the track conditions were at their hottest and slowest.

"This three day test has produced positive results for us," said Chief Test Engineer, Ian Morgan. "We can be particularly satisfied that the car ran one hundred percent reliably on track throughout and we completed over eighteen hundred kilometres, the most of any team here, with today being particularly busy.

Renault also concentrated on race preparation for the Italian Grand Prix, as Fernando Alonso sampled a variety of set-up solutions to perfect the R28's low downforce package. There was also the chance to complete some suspension work as the team worked on improving the car's behaviour through the chicanes.

"Another valuable day in Monza," said Alonso, "we have learnt some interesting things that will help us prepare for the race here in a couple of weeks time. We tried lots of different things with the set-up and then did some suspension work in the afternoon as using the curbs is important here. I think we have taken the car in the right direction and we have a good basis to build on over the race weekend."

"We spent the day looking at the set-up and completing all the usual Monza-specific work," added Christian Silk, "because this place is so different to all the other tracks that we run at. We continued with our race preparation programme, collecting data and found some very positive directions with the set-up, so we are in reasonable shape going into the race here."

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