McLaren strikes back in Italian GP second practice

McLaren strikes back in Italian GP second practice

Ferrari made the running in the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix but McLaren struck back on Friday afternoon with a one-two at the top of the time sheet. Fernando Alonso clocked 1:22.386, just half a tenth quicker than Kimi ...

Ferrari made the running in the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix but McLaren struck back on Friday afternoon with a one-two at the top of the time sheet. Fernando Alonso clocked 1:22.386, just half a tenth quicker than Kimi Raikkonen in the morning, and Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, eight tenths off his teammate but the only man within a second of the Spaniard.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22.
Photo by Alessio Morgese.

"We had a good idea of our performance from the test last week, and although the conditions have changed slightly since then, we were able to get an understanding of the set-up for the race, and I am happy with how the car felt," Alonso commented. "I missed a little time in the morning session when the team were fixing a small problem with my steering, but it didn't really make too much difference to our overall results."

Hamilton was satisfied with his day. "We went through our usual set-up and Bridgestone Potenza tyre comparison work and now have a good understanding of our competitiveness this weekend," he said. "The car feels really good to drive round here, and we have already made some good steps forward today. However you never know what everyone else is doing, so we will be looking for further improvements before qualifying tomorrow."

Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was third overall, just under four tenths behind Hamilton, and Heikki Kovalainen was ninth. The gap between the French squad's drivers was two and a half tenths and after the McLarens the times in the top 10 were pretty close, although the usual pecking order was somewhat shuffled.

"We worked through the programme without any problems, we made good progress with the set-up of the car and by the end of the day, the balance was not too bad," said Fisichella. "Qualifying will be tough, especially because the times seem even closer than usual here at Monza. But it was a good first day and a positive start to the weekend."

Robert Kubica's BMW Sauber was fourth fastest and Nick Heidfeld was seventh, the pair both in front of one of the Ferraris. Nico Rosberg held station from the morning, his Williams fifth, while teammate Alex Wurz was 10th, three tenths off Rosberg which was a big difference from the earlier session when he was over a second adrift.

Felipe Massa was the lead Ferrari in sixth, 1.3 down on Alonso which seems a peculiarly large gap compared to the Scuderia's morning pace but who knows what set up they were playing with. Raikkonen was a little further off in eighth but he missed the majority of the session because of a hydraulic problem.

Due to that the Finn said it was hard to judge how Ferrari stands so far. "We don't have much of a reference point on where we actually are, on top of the fact that as usual there are the unknown factors linked to the fuel loads and tyres used by the other teams during the practice," he remarked. "The balance of the car is not bad, but we definitely have work to do to improve the performance, especially for qualifying, where our rivals are particularly competitive."

Toyota's Jarno Trulli was 11th overall and Ralf Schumacher was one behind in 12th. Jenson Button couldn't reproduce his sixth fastest position of the morning and was 13th while Honda teammate Rubens Barrichello was 15th. Barrichello led the lower section of the grid that was over two seconds and more down on Alonso's top time.

In between the two Hondas was the Red Bull of Mark Webber in 14th and the sister car of David Coulthard was on the other side of Barrichello in 16th. Takuma Sato was the lead Super Aguri in 17th but teammate Anthony Davidson was last after bringing out the red flag when his car stopped in a dangerous spot between the Lesmos. A clutch problem was suspected.

Sebastian Vettel was again ahead of Tonio Liuzzi, the two Toro Rossos 18th and 20th respectively. Adrian Sutil's Spyker separated them in 19th and Sakon Yamamoto was 21st. Both teams were over three seconds off Alonso and Sato wasn't far off it, although Davidson at the back would presumably have been better if he'd had the chance for more than six laps.

It was a bit of a strange afternoon as far as the end result on the time sheet showed; it's hard to see how Ferrari lost over a second from the morning and Alonso was so far ahead of anyone else. But strange goings-on are not uncommon at the moment. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Hamilton, Fisichella, Kubica, Rosberg, Massa, Heidfeld, Raikkonen.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Sebastian Vettel , Sakon Yamamoto , Adrian Sutil
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams