McLaren has kickstarted its Italian Grand Prix in the best possible fashion, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finishing 1-2 at the end of the first free practice session at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
The 2008 World Champion finished the 90-minute session almost a second faster than Button, with the Woking squad bucking the trend at this low-downforce circuit by running an unusually high degree of rear wing. Ostensibly, this is to give it additional speed through the circuit’s slower corners, while the use of DRS along the straights would give it sufficient straight-line speed.
There were a few driver substitutions for this session: Karun Chandhok had another outing for Team Lotus in Jarno Trulli’s car, while Force India reserve driver Nico Hülkenberg was behind the wheel of Paul di Resta’s VJM04.
With this being the first and only truly low-downforce track on the calendar, teams were keen to clock some set-up mileage in the opening session. Red Bull Racing experimented with a new diffuser configuration, while local team Ferrari opted to split its set-up work: Felipe Massa ran a high-downforce front wing, while Fernando Alonso ran a more conventional set-up. The duo finished eighth and seventh respectively.
The session was generally free of major carnage, although there were plenty of trips over the run-off kerbing and a few sojourns through the kitty litter. Michael Schumacher and Sébastien Buemi each had off-track moments, but were able to rejoin without major damage. Jaime Alguersuari found himself unintentionally baulked by Timo Glock’s slower Virgin entry, with the Spaniard venting his frustrations at the German exiting the Ascari chicane.
Several drivers also experienced reliability issues. Karun Chandhok reported steering issues in his Lotus, while the sister car of Heikki Kovalainen pulled off the circuit with a gearbox sensor problem.
The two Virgin entries also had problems: Jérôme d’Ambrosio pulled off with overheating issues, while Glock suffered a range of sensor problems, completing little mileage as the team experimented with getting new parts to work.
At the sharp end of the timesheets, Hamilton was the only driver to break under the 1m24s barrier by the end of the session, while behind Button, the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber completed the top four runners.
Adrian Sutil showed good form in his Force India with the fifth-quickest effort, while Vitaly Petrov snuck into sixth-fastest, ahead of the two Ferraris of Alonso and Massa. Sergio Pérez and Alguersuari rounded out the top ten for Sauber and Toro Rosso, respectively.
2011 Italian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||1:23.865||18|
|2.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 0.921||19|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 1.366||25|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 1.594||24|
|5.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.685||23|
|6.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 2.760||20|
|7.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 2.782||20|
|8.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 2.811||24|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 2.829||28|
|10.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 2.831||15|
|11.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 2.834||21|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.961||21|
|13.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 2.971||25|
|14.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 3.131||29|
|15.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 3.500||25|
|16.||Bruno Senna||Renault R31||+ 3.520||23|
|17.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 3.568||25|
|18.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 3.627||24|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus Renault T128||+ 5.674||10|
|20.||Karun Chandhok||Lotus Renault T128||+ 6.283||19|
|21.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 6.744||27|
|22.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 6.754||24|
|23.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 7.187||12|
|24.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 8.034||22|