Hamilton leads on day one of Monza test

The F1 teams were back to work on August 28th as testing got under way at Monza in preparation for the Italian Grand Prix. Only Spyker was absent on the first day and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton topped the times with a best of 1:24.112. He worked on a low downforce configuration for the upcoming race as well as aerodynamics and tyres, wets at the end due to rain.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari was second fastest, a tenth and a half down on Hamilton. Much the same as the other teams, Ferrari's focus was the specific set up and aerodynamic requirements of the package for the high-speed Monza track.

"I think that Ferrari will also have a very competitive car (at Monza), for the home race," Raikkonen said about the Italian GP, his first as a Ferrari driver. "It will be tough. I know from experience that McLaren is very strong there. It wasn't by chance that they won the pole here last year. Having said that, let's go to Monza and win."

Third on the time sheet was the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld and his work was mainly on new front and rear wings, as well as bodywork, relating to the low downforce package. Heidfeld carried out set up in the morning and aerodynamic comparisons in the afternoon so the engineers could gather data.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli was fourth overall and initially worked on solving electronic issues before focusing on the downforce requirements. "In general we got through a decent amount of work on the set-up today before the rain came at the end of the day," the Italian commented. "We worked on the tyres and brakes and I was am happy with progress."

Williams had test driver Kazuki Nakajima on track and he was fifth quickest. "We ran through day one's planned test programme with no problems at all," said test team manager Dickie Stanford. "In fact, it's probably been one of the smoothest and efficient sessions we've had so far this year, with Kazuki completing the most number of laps of the session."

Sebastian Vettel is still finding his feet at Toro Rosso but managed the sixth best time of the day on is first official test for the team. As well as the ubiquitous aero and set up work he also checked brakes. Test driver Nelson A. Piquet was seventh for Renault and he tried out the 2008 spec electronics without driver aids.

"The car was not really different; it was just a bit less predictable and slightly trickier to drive as it is less forgiving!" Piquet said. "It's difficult to be consistent as the laps unfold but I think I got to grips with it fairly quickly. We've revised the braking load to adapt the car to 2008, and we concentrated on setting it up in this configuration."

Honda's Rubens Barrichello was eighth and Red Bull's Mark Webber was ninth. Webber worked on both general and Monza-specific aerodynamics but suffered an electrical problem in the afternoon that delayed him a while. Super Aguri tester James Rossiter rounded off the list in 10th and his programme was aero evaluation and set up, as well as practicing race starts in the afternoon.

This test is scheduled for three days but may be extended to a fourth as the weather forecast is for more rain. Meanwhile, the change at the second chicane from a gravel trap to a run-off area appears to have met with initial approval from the drivers. The Grand Prix Drivers' Association cited safety reasons when asking for the change after last year's race.