Ferrari's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr drives during the third practice session, ahead of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit, in Monza on September 2, 2023. Photo: AFP
Spaniard Sainz clocked one minute 20.912 seconds at Monza to claim top spot in two straight practice runs, this time 0.086 ahead of Red Bull's record hunter Max Verstappen.
Reigning world champion and runaway leader Verstappen is chasing a 10th straight GP win after equalling Sebastian Vettel's record of nine at his home Dutch GP last weekend.
Red Bull have won every one of this year's 13 races so far with Verstappen claiming 11 and Sergio Perez winning the other two.
Sainz trails Verstappen by a whopping 237 points in the drivers' championship and is yet to claim a podium finish this season.
But the 29-year-old's displays on home turf have been impressive so far this weekend, suggesting he could challenge Red Bull's supremacy in qualifying which starts at 1400 GMT.
Ferrari will also be boosted by more trouble for Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez, who crashed out of Friday's second session and missed some of the session on Saturday due to an oil leak.
Lewis Hamilton was just over half a second back in third, a whisker ahead of Sainz's Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc.
Mercedes announced on Thursday that seven-time F1 champion Hamilton had signed a new deal until 2025 which will extend his career beyond his 40th birthday.
Hamilton, 38, is convinced he can win more GPs and world championships with the Silver Arrows, although he is 183 points behind Verstappen this season.
The Briton relinquished his position as the number one driver in F1 in 2021 when he was controversially beaten to the drivers' title by Verstappen on the final day of the season.
Last season Hamilton failed to win or claim pole position at any GP for the first time in his career, while this year he is yet to add to his record 103 race victories.
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