Nico Rosberg has kicked off his quest for back-to-back Grand Prix wins by leading a Mercedes 1-2 in the opening practice session of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

The German narrowly edged teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton by just two-tenths of a second at the end of the 90-minute session. Ominously for the rest of the field, the duo lapped over a second quicker than everyone else around the high-speed 5.7-kilometre circuit.

While both he and Hamilton posted times on the grippier Super Soft rubber, Rosberg’s fastest lap, a 1:22.959, was posted on the Soft compound tyre. Hamilton 0.203 seconds behind and was the only other driver to lap below 1m24s in the session.

Looking to atone from a clumsy race last weekend in Belgian where they collided at the first corner, the Ferrari duo of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel finished third and fourth-fastest respectively. Despite their cars being fitted with updated power units, neither driver could get within a second of the Silver Arrows.

Force India’s Sergio Pérez finished fifth-fastest, and spent part of the session – along with McLaren’s Jenson Button and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen – sampling the ‘halo’ cockpit protection device for the first time.

Underlining that the Silverstone team’s VJM09 could be a potent package this weekend, the team’s well-funded test driver Alfonso Celis Jr – driving in place of Nico Hülkenberg in this session – was twelfth-fastest overall, a significantly better showing than his previous FP1 outings have demonstrated.

The Haas F1 Team enjoyed a promising first outing at Monza, with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez finishing sixth- and ninth-fastest respectively. The American team ran an unusual rear wing design featuring a W-shaped lower plane, ostensibly to cope with the Monza circuit’s unique low-downforce characteristics. Both drivers’ fastest times were posted on the Super Soft rubber.

Williams had a session of contrasts: Valtteri Bottas finished seventh-fastest, while teammate Felipe Massa’s swansong outing in Italy didn’t get off the best start when he struck technical trouble in his car. The Brazilian was limited to just 18 laps in the session and finished an unrepresentative fourteenth-fastest.

The Red Bull Racing pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were eighth and tenth on the timesheets, just ahead of the McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, who finished eleventh and thirteenth fastest respectively.

Marcus Ericsson took his upgraded Sauber Ferrari to fifteenth on the timesheets, edging our the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat.

Manor Racing rookie Esteban Ocon shaded teammate Pascal Wehrlein by four-tenths of a second, with the pair sandwiching the second Sauber of Felipe Nasr. The two Renaults of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen brought up the rear, highlighting the team’s chassis and power unit deficiencies that are expected to make this a tough weekend for the French outfit.

The session had no major incidents aside from a number of drivers running wide as they explored the circuit’s grip limits. Vettel, Verstappen and Ricciardo each had a wild moment through the Ascari Chicane sweeps, while Hamilton twice cut the Variante della Roggia chicane and had to take to the designated run-off lane before rejoining the circuit.

Friday’s second practice session at Monza begins at 14:00 local time (GMT +2).


FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO HEINEKEN D’ITALIA 2016 – FREE PRACTICE 1 SESSION RESULTS
Driver Team / Entry Result Laps
1. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:22.959 37
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid + 0.203 36
3. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H + 1.088 16
4. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H + 1.348 17
5. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 1.691 32
6. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 1.804 17
7. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 1.826 37
8. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 2.023 25
9. Esteban Gutiérrez Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 2.154 19
10. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 2.161 17
11. Jenson Button McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 2.392 23
12. Alfonso Celis Jr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 2.408 30
13. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 2.548 14
14. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 2.881 18
15. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 2.894 20
16. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 + 3.014 20
17. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 + 3.115 20
18. Esteban Ocon fr Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 3.432 30
19. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 3.480 21
20. Pascal Wehrlein de Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 3.803 28
21. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 3.852 35
22. Kevin Magnussen dk Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 3.997 32

Image via XPB 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.

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