McLaren's usual suspect tops Italian GP first practice

McLaren's usual suspect tops Italian GP first practice

McLaren third driver Pedro de la Rosa took up his usual position at the top of the times in the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, setting a best of 1:20.201. He was 1.6 faster than the Williams of Mark Webber, who popped in a last...

McLaren third driver Pedro de la Rosa took up his usual position at the top of the times in the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, setting a best of 1:20.201. He was 1.6 faster than the Williams of Mark Webber, who popped in a last minute flyer to take second. The McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya were third and fourth respectively.

Pedro de la Rosa.
Photo by xpb.cc.

It was a fair start to the morning with both the air and track temperature around 30 degrees as Nicolas Kiesa, still on third driver duty for Jordan, led out for installation laps. Toyota and McLaren counterparts Ricardo Zonta and de la Rosa followed on, along with Red Bull No.3 Tonio Liuzzi. Minardi's Robert Doornbos was the first race driver out and team third driver Enrico Toccacelo was next to join.

Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve and Minardi's Christijan Albers also ventured out but, as usual, it took a little while before anyone set a time. Tiago Monteiro, in the new EJ15B, was the first Jordan racer to appear, followed by Raikkonen and BAR's Takuma Sato. Narain Karthikeyan's Jordan and Jenson Button's BAR also completed an installation lap apiece.

Zonta was the first to wind up a flying lap and clocked 1:26.177 to start the proceedings. Over his next couple of laps he bought it down to 1:23.685 and was then replaced by de la Rosa's 1:22.875. Kiesa took third, over four seconds off, and de la Rosa had another go for 1:22.275. Zonta improved his time but was over a second down on the McLaren, while Liuzzi and Toccacelo posted fourth and fifth respectively.

De la Rosa was still lapping and his next flyer was a slight improvement, 1:22.122, and Liuzzi moved up to third but was then demoted by Kiesa. He and Zonta were putting in a few laps but there was little activity in the first half hour. Karthikeyan eventually made it six on the time sheet, third behind Zonta and over four seconds off de la Rosa's lead time. Albers arrived next, one ahead of Toccacelo for sixth.

Monteiro put in a good effort to take third and Doornbos posted seventh. Sato clocked second on his first flyer, eight tenths down on de la Rosa, but was immediately demoted by Zonta, who lowered the gap to the McLaren to just under half a second. De la Rosa then picked up his pace to 1:20.201, leaving Zonta well over two seconds off. Scary stuff from McLaren but no flyers by the racers as yet.

Liuzzi improved to fourth and with 10 minutes remaining not even half the field had set a time. Monza is notoriously hard on engines and with the nearly-as-tough Spa next weekend, protecting the power plant is even more important than usual for those that need it to last both races. Kiesa moved up to sixth to make it a Jordan trio from Monteiro in fifth, and the Minardi trio followed on, led by Albers in eighth.

Montoya put his McLaren second on his first flyer, 1.8 off de la Rosa, and the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello appeared at the edge of the top ten. Raikkonen took second off Montoya when he arrived on the time sheet and Nick Heidfeld's Williams slotted into fourth behind the three McLarens. David Coulthard put his Red Bull eighth and Michael improved to seventh.

Webber's Williams spoiled the McLaren party by taking second, but still well over a second off de la Rosa. We never got to see how Renault measured up because that was the end of the session and Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella did not set a time. Neither did the Saubers, the Toyota race drivers, Button or Red Bull's Christian Klien.

While McLaren looked very fast, if you take de la Rosa out of the picture it was actually Webber that was the fastest of the race drivers, albeit only a couple of hundredths ahead of Raikkonen. But it was an inconclusive session, as it usually is on a Friday morning, especially with so few timed laps done by the racers and none at all by McLaren's title rivals Renault.

Ignoring de la Rosa -- no offence to Pedro but third drivers don't have the same constraints as the racers -- Webber, Raikkonen, Montoya and Heidfeld were seperated by half a second. Is Williams going to suddenly come up to speed? We shall see. Final top eight classification: De la Rosa, Webber, Raikkonen, Montoya, Heidfeld, Zonta, Sato, M. Schumacher.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan