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Monza day three - Hamilton finishes Italian test on a high 29 Aug 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes Formula One Testing, Monza, Italy, Friday 29 August 2008. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008 Formula One Testing, Monza, Italy, Friday 29 August 2008. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28 Formula One Testing, Monza, Italy, Friday 29 August 2008. David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4 Formula One Testing, Monza, Italy, Friday 29 August 2008. Timo Glock (GER) Toyota TF108 Formula One Testing, Monza, Italy, Friday 29 August 2008.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton led the week’s final day of testing at Monza in Italy on Friday. The championship leader headed world champion Kimi Raikkonen by four-tenths of a second, with Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella an encouraging third fastest.

With track temperatures hitting a heady 50 degrees Celsius, Hamilton ran 97 laps as he took over from team mate Heikki Kovalainen, continuing evaluation of mechanical and aero set-ups for the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix. McLaren described the results as ‘encouraging’.

With President Luca di Montezemolo in attendance, Ferrari were also upbeat after Raikkonen covered 79 laps, combining Monza-specific work with aerodynamic and mechanical development 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," commented Raikkonen. "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. Now we have to try and do everything as well as possible to get back to winning again, starting with the race in Spa.”

Force India reported no problems as Fisichella concluded their programme with another 114 laps, bringing their mileage for the week to over 1,700 kilometres. The Italian continued Monza set-up preparations, together with work to optimise balance and braking over the kerbs.

“Today we made some positive steps forward for the Italian Grand Prix, particularly with the balance and set-up,” reported Fisichella. “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.”

Kazuki Nakajima took over from Nico Rosberg and maintained the team’s positive testing form, with his 99 laps yielding the fourth-fastest time, just ahead of the Red Bull of David Coulthard. “This three-day test has produced positive results for us,” commented Red Bull’s chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. “We can be particularly satisfied that the car ran 100 percent reliably on track throughout and we completed over 1,800 kilometres, the most of any team here, with today being particularly busy.”

Sixth place went to Fernando Alonso and Renault. "Another valuable day in Monza and we have learnt some interesting things that will help us prepare for the race here in a couple of weeks’ time,” said the Spaniard. “We tried lots of different things with the set-up and then did some suspension work in the afternoon as using the kerbs 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."

Toro Rosso’s final day saw Sebastien Bourdais in seventh after 77 laps. “In general, this three-day test has gone well and produced some quite promising results,” commented the team’s chief test engineer, Gianvito Amico. “Our focus was always on reliability and consistency, rather than looking for performance and the results would indicate that we are in good shape for the up coming races.”

At Toyota, Timo Glock was eighth as his 79 laps saw him concentrate on finding better turn-in capability and a brake balance he was comfortable with, while also adjusting the TF108 to cope with Monza's notoriously high kerbs. The German tried a number of different set-ups before, half an hour from the end of the session, the car got away from him and he clipped a tyre barrier at the second Lesmo corner.

"We will have to analyse in detail what the problem was,” said Glock. “Until the accident the test was going okay but we had a few problems around midday. Then in the afternoon I think track conditions were a bit slower and we couldn't really make strong progress. The crash was not nice and I'm not sure what happened. We'd had a bit of understeer and the kerb-riding was not too comfortable but I wasn't aware of making a mistake. We will have to have a close look at the data."

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica, ninth, also had a minor off, in the morning. Although the car sustained only minor damage to the left-front, the repairs were time consuming. The team continued with their testing programme as scheduled after the lunch break, but a couple of red flags as well as a small electrical problem cut Kubica’s track time to 57 laps.

Honda’s Jenson Button completed the line-up in tenth. After 96 laps at the wheel of the RA108, the Briton admitted the team still have work to do: "Although we have made some progress, the balance of the car is not where I would like it to be, particularly for Monza, and we need to analyse the data carefully to make improvements before the race weekend."

The next multi-team test will take place at Jerez in Spain in mid-September.

Unofficial Friday times from Monza:
1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:22.967
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:23.371
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 1:23.632
4. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 1:23.634
5. David Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:23.737
6. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:23.820
7. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:23.865
8. Timo Glock, Toyota, 1:23.897
9. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:24.089
10. Jenson Button, Honda, 1:24.321