Jenson Button has headed the opening practice timesheets for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, edging out Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel by less than one-tenth of a second at the end of the 90-minute session.
Held in dry conditions, the session was more than half-run before anyone posted remotely competitive times, with team using the opening exchanges to evaluate different set-up compromises. With Monza being the last of the true low-downforce circuits on the calendar, teams are faced with the tough task of wringing out as much straight-line speed as possible without compromising cornering ability.
As such, several teams faced the prospect of ditching their ‘F-ducts’ for this weekend’s event, while Toro Rosso chose this event to belatedly debut their iteration of the downforce-stalling concept (pictured below left).
Button’s McLaren ran with a surprisingly high amount of rear wing angle, while Red Bull ran with high visibility paint on its rear wing to evaluate the air flow around the back of the car (pictured above right).
At the end of the session, Hamilton was the only other driver to dip into the 1m23s barrier. Robert Kubica wound up fourth-quickest for Renault, while Nico Rosberg seemingly belied the pre-race expectations that Mercedes GP would struggle this weekend, hauling his W01 to fifth on the timesheets.
Mark Webber finished up sixth-quickest in the second Red Bull, ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India, who headed the home favourites, Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso proving quicker than team-mate Felipe Massa. Michael Schumacher rounded out the top ten on the timesheets.
Nico Hülkenberg finished up eleventh-quickest in the Williams, while Paul di Resta made his return to the sister Force India in his ongoing role as the team’s Friday test driver and was twelfth quickest.
Of the three new teams, Timo Glock lapped quickest in his Virgin Cosworth, and just eight-tenths off the pace of Jaime Alguersuari and only one-tenth quicker than JArno Trulli in the Lotus and Lucas di Grassi in the sister VR-01.
Heikki Kovalainen lost a bucketload of time with yet another Xtrac hydraulics leak on his installation lap, with the Finn winding up 21st overall.
Bruno Senna had an equally fraught session when his Hispania team unearthed a brake fluid leak in his car – hardly the type of technical failure you want on this high-speed circuit! He joined the action towards the end of the session, but completed just eight circuits before stopping again.
His compatriot Rubens Barrichello managed even fewer laps, stopping at the exit of the second Lesmo corner with a loss of drive.
2010 Italian GP Practice 1 Session Times: