Hamilton fastest in final practice

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 08, 2012

VALENCIA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 02: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren Mercedes faces questions from the media in the paddock during winter testing at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit on February 2, 2010 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton had the fastest time in the final practice session at the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday, edging out championship leader Fernando Alonso by one thousandth of a second. As speculation about his future and a possible switch to Mercedes continued, Hamilton posted a time of 1 minute, 24.578 seconds in perfect conditions at Monza. The McLaren driver also topped Friday's second practice. Alonso put Friday's problems behind him and delivered a strong performance, but he was beaten by a flying lap from Hamilton, 5 minutes from the end of the session. Paul Di Resta was third, but his chances of a points finish on Sunday took a blow after he was handed a five-place grid penalty because of a gearbox change. A gearbox is supposed to last five consecutive races under FIA regulations, but the Force India team was forced to place a new one in Di Resta's car after last weekend's Belgium Grand Prix. On Friday, Alonso endured a suspected engine failure in the first practice, and a brake problem and gearbox failure during the afternoon session. The Ferrari driver had his lead over Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel cut to 24 points last weekend after his race was ended following a wild multi-car accident caused by Lotus driver Romain Grosjean at the start. However, Vettel has struggled with his car so far at Monza and has finished outside the top 10 in all three practices. Felipe Massa and Jenson Button completed the top five in the third practice session at Monza, setting up a close fight for pole position in the afternoon qualifying session. Five-time Monza winner Michael Schumacher was fastest in the first practice, but had technical difficulties Saturday morning and finished 14th, nearly a second behind Hamilton.
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