Lewis Hamilton has ended the first practice session quickest

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.

Karun Chandhok was back in the Lotus for this session Conditions were picture perfect at the historic circuit in Milan’s parklands, with the air temperature already touching 24°C (75°F) when the session got underway at 10am local time.

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.

Rubens Barrichello finished the session 13th-fastest 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 The Ferraris were not on the pace in FP1overheating 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:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 1:23.865 18
2. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 0.921 19
3. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 1.366 25
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 1.594 24
5. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.685 23
6. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 2.760 20
7. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 2.782 20
8. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 2.811 24
9. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.829 28
10. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.831 15
11. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 2.834 21
12. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.961 21
13. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.971 25
14. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 3.131 29
15. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 3.500 25
16. Bruno Senna BRZ Renault R31 + 3.520 23
17. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 3.568 25
18. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 3.627 24
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Renault T128 + 5.674 10
20. Karun Chandhok IND Lotus Renault T128 + 6.283 19
21. Daniel Ricciardo AUS HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 6.744 27
22. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 6.754 24
23. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 7.187 12
24. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 8.034 22

[Image via Formula1.com, LAT and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.