Driver reaction after qualifying
McLaren undecided on F-duct
Driver reaction after Friday practice
Vettel cranks up the heat in Monza
- Italian Grand Prix
- FIA Formula One World Championship
Jenson Button topped the timesheets after the opening session of free practice for the Italian Grand Prix, as glorious sunshine greeted the teams and drivers at the famous Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
The McLaren driver clocked a 1:23.693 to finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica as teams made the most of the good track conditions to gather valuable feedback ahead of a weekend that could prove pivotal in this year's championship.
Michael Schumacher was the first of the big names to take to the circuit, the four-time Italian Grand Prix winner posting the first lap time of the day during a long early stint.
As expected, all of the teams that had the option to do so ran F-ducts early on in order to gather data on the efficiency of the device on the low-downforce circuit. And it was not long before Hamilton jumped to the top of the timesheets with a 1:25.816. He lowered his time further to a 1:24.990 before Sebastian Vettel made his first statement of intent, displacing the McLaren at the top.
With the track temperature rising, so the times tumbled further with the expected big teams rising to the top, first Button then Vettel dipping below the 1:23s barrier. And it was Button who ended the session with the early psychological advantage.
The two top teams appeared to take two different strategies on the high-speed 3.6 mile circuit. The McLaren's ran lots of downforce and relied on the F-duct for straight-line speed, while Red Bull ran a skinnier rear wing alongside its less efficient F-duct. As a result the Red Bulls were faster through the speed trap but the McLarens were quicker in the chicanes and through the Parabolica corner at the end of the lap. Another benefit of running higher downforce is better stability under braking and an easier ride for the tyres over long runs.
Ferrari had a solid if unspectacular first session, lining up eighth and ninth at its home circuit. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were just behind Tonio Liuzzi in the Force India, who is banking on a good weekend as the track should suit his car. Another star performer from the first session was Nico Rosberg, who hauled his Mercedes up to fifth fastest after experimenting with different brake materials early in the session.
Not everybody found the running so easy. Rubens Barrichello was forced to pull over at the first Lesmo with an apparent transmission failure and Bruno Senna stopped at the first chicane towards the end of the session. The HRT driver spent most of the morning in the garage with a brake problem, while his neighbours at Lotus also struggled with hydraulic issues.
Others, including Schumacher, Jaime Alguersuari and Kamui Kobayashi suffered minor off-track excursions.