Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
Lewis Hamilton was fastest for McLaren during the first free practice session for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this morning. The Briton had been setting the pace all morning and set his final fastest time of 1m23.865s during the closing stages of the session, while his team colleague Jenson Button took second place to secure a McLaren one-two at the super-fast Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Hamilton was really flying as Button was 0.921s slower than the 2009 champion.
Second row was for the championship leading Red Bull Racing team, Sebastian Vettel had also been fast but at the end of the session couldn’t get closer to the times of the McLaren pair and after completing 25 laps at Monza took third place, albeit 1.366s slower than Hamilton. Other Red Bull driver Mark Webber scored fourth position with a time of 1m25.459s, almost one and a half second off the pace.
Surprise of the morning was Adrian Sutil who took his Force India to fifth place, but was 2.685s slower than the leader. With only 2 minutes to go the German first took seventh place but managed to grab fifth after a an impressive last-minute lap.
Russian Vitaly Petrov was another outsider in the top ten; he took sixth place for Lotus Renault. His team colleague Bruno Senna didn’t do as well and had to get used to the circuit. 40 minutes into the session he flew off at the Variante della Roggia to take his Lotus Renault through the escape road, but could continue without any damage and ultimately took 16th place, almost a full second slower than Petrov.
Next on the time sheets are the Ferrari drivers, with Fernando Alonso being the fastest of the pair. The Spaniard tested new aero parts at the beginning of the session, but some 80 minutes into this morning’s session his engineers had found a problem with one of his medium Pirellis and he therefore stayed in the garage unable to improve his time. Felipe Massa had a pretty uneventful practice session and after having completed 24 laps this morning took eighth place, just 0.018s behind Alonso.
Mexican Sergio Perez was the fastest of the Sauber drivers; he had been fast all morning but after locking up his front wheels during his final lap called it a day and finished in an impressive ninth position. The other Sauber pilot Kamui Kobayashi had a few hairy moments and could not improve his fastest time which he had set after 65 minutes, and finished the morning in 14th place, three tenths of a second slower than Perez.
Jaime Alguersuari completed the top ten and put a time of 1m26.696 on the clocks in his Toro Rosso. With ten minutes to go the Spaniard while on a fast lap almost ran into the back of Timo Glock’s Marussia Virgin at the very fast Variante Ascari, a few hand signals were exchanged and Alguersuari had to abort his flying lap. Sebastien Buemi took his Toro Rosso to a 17th place, 3.568s slower than the leader and 0.737s slower than Alguersuari.
Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher was the fastest of the Mercedes drivers, but the German also had a few hairy moments at the Lesmos and later went through the gravel trap that lines the Parabolica, but could avoid running into the tyre barrier. Thus Schumacher ended up on 11th spot, while Nico Rosberg didn’t get any further than 17th place. Rosberg, who also spent some time on testing new parts, also had a few off-track moments and finished the morning with a time of 1m27.492s.
Nico Hulkenberg was in his usual role as Friday morning tester for Force India, and had initially been fast, but towards the end of the session could not match the pace of Sutil, and he finished in 12th position.
Next on the list is Rubens Barrichello who didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get back on the track after an early installation lap, but after 40 minutes finally emerged from the pit lane for his first timed lap. The Brazilian couldn’t find the right pace and after having completed a total of 25 laps finished in 13th position. His Venezuelan team mate Pastor Maldonado took 15th place, exactly 3.5s off Hamilton’s time.
Further down the list Heikki Kovalainen was the fastest of the newest teams and the Finn took his Team Lotus-Renault to 19th place, but was 5.647s slower than the leader, and one second slower than the number 18, Rosberg. His session started well, but after an hour he got a gearbox problem, tried to cruise back to the pits but had to park his car at the Lesmo turns, thus ending his morning practice session. Team Lotus-Renault test driver Karun Chandhok took Jarno Trulli’s place this morning, and finished in 20th right behind Kovalainen.
Daniel Ricciardo is still looking to beat his team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi, this morning he did, but by the smallest of margins as the Australian Red Bull protégé took his HRT to 21st place, only 0.010s faster than the Italian who finished in 22nd position.
This morning Marussia Virgin was the slowest team, Glock experienced technical problems and spent a lot of time in the garage, but with just a few minutes left to go managed to set a time of 1m31.052s and took 23rd place. Belgium Jerome d’Ambrosio was seem with a smoking car in the first chicane, and with 15 minutes left to go had to park his car thus taking 24th and last position.
This morning Sutil and Petrov were the outsiders to take fifth and sixth position respectively, while Ferrari could not impress with seventh and eighth place, and the Italian team will certainly be poised to do a bit better in front of their home crowd. Hamilton was the real surprise of the day by taking first place and beating Button with one second, this afternoon all drivers will again venture onto the Monza track for another 90-minute second practice session.