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Hamilton quickest in FP3 as Vettel offers tifosi hope

NEWS STORY
05/09/2015

Ahead of today's sole free practice session, the air temperature is 16 degrees C, and the track temperature is 18 degrees. It is cool and damp, following heavy overnight rain.

To throw a further spanner in the work, this afternoon's qualifying session is expected to be held in dry - possibly mixed - conditions, which will no doubt compromise a few programmes.

Lewis Hamilton dominated both sessions yesterday, and while Nico Rosberg closed the gap in FP2, the Briton didn't look entirely bothered, he appeared to have it all under control.

Mercedes has the opportunity to run riot here this weekend, an already pretty dominant package boosted by an upgraded engine package that is not available to its customers. That said, Force India is looking good to be best of the (Mercedes) rest, and Ferrari fuelled by the tifosi as opposed to tokens.

This being a power circuit it comes as no surprise that McLaren and the Renault teams have taken grid penalties as they take on new engines. Rather than getting them closer to the front - it won't, they can't match the Mercedes or Ferrari - the move is with an eye on races where a poor grid position is far more damaging, the likes of Singapore etc. There is method in the madness.

No tyre issues thus far, not that anyone is allowed to talk about it, whilst brake issues have caused some concern, Hamilton in FP2 for example. As a result, lots of lock-ups and even a few spins, though only one red flag thus far, that of Carlos Sainz in FP1 when he went off at Parabolica.

Talking of tyres, choices this weekend are the same as for the previous two races, medium (prime) and soft (option). On the longer runs yesterday, the Ferraris showed particularly strong pace.

There are two DRS zones, the first on the main pit straight, the second on the run form the second Lesmo to Ascari.

The lights go green, but in light of the conditions there is no mad scramble to get to work. Though it is no longer raining, the track remains damp, the situation not helped by the oak trees that hang over the track at certain points.

Eventually, Button heads out, followed by Kvyat and Ricciardo, all three looking to start from the back of the grid tomorrow. More and more drivers pour on to the track, all sporting inters.

"It's really quite dry," reports Verstappen, "but not quite dry enough for slicks." The Toro Rosso driver goes on to post the first time of the day, 1:35.731.

In the Ferrari motorhome Kimi and Seb get a hug from company boss Sergio Marchionne.

Having posted 36.405, Sainz has to work his way through the obstacle course that is the run-off at the first chicane. Teammate Verstappen improves to 34.366.

The Toro Rosso duo head back to the pits as Hamilton heads down the pitlane. The Briton completes one exploratory lap before joining his colleagues back in the pitlane. Having performed a practice start, the world champion confirms that it was "really good".

Kvyat and Rosberg head out, rain lights flashing their warning. Unlike his teammate, Rosberg stays out, though he runs through the pits in order to perform a practice start.

Approaching 'half-time', with just two names on the timesheet, Hamilton heads out again. Still on the inters, at the end of the lap he heads down the pitlane to perform a practice start.

Elsewhere, the Toro Rosso duo bolt on slicks (prime) and head out. Along the pitlane all eyes are focussed on the dark blue cars.

Sainz improves from 36.405 to 32.814, but it's not enough to convince his rivals. Indeed, a slide from Verstappen at the first chicane and again at Ascari indicate that conditions are not yet ideal.

Still on inters, Rosberg is advised that current times are around 5 to 6s off those set in the "full dry". Meanwhile, Sainz has improved to 30.689.

Nasr is the third driver to post a time, the Sauber pilot crossing the line at 32.978. Teammate Ericsson subsequently posts 32.888.

As he begins his first flying lap of the day, the crowd gleefully cheers on Raikkonen. The Finn responds by going quickest in S1. As he maintains the pace in S2, teammate Vettel goes quickest in S1.

At the line Raikkonen can only manage 3.087, which puts him second. Moments later he is demoted when Vettel posts 28.673.

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