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In contrast to the wet conditions that characterised Friday free practice at the last grand prix in Belgium, there were ambient temperatures of 28 degrees centigrade and track temperatures of 40 degrees centigrade as the cars took to the track for the first time in Monza.
This worked the P Zero Silver hard and P Zero White medium tyres particularly hard on the fastest circuit of the year, where the maximum speed reached was 347kph last year. The stable conditions allowed all the drivers to try out both compounds today, as they prepared for qualifying and the race by accumulating data on each tyre with high and low fuel loads. This information will be vital when it comes to calculating the race strategy, which is set to be a vital ingredient to success on Sunday.
The drivers used the hard compound exclusively this morning, with Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher going fastest with a time of 1m25.422s on the Silver, three-tenths of a second ahead of Belgian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button for McLaren.
In the warmer conditions of the afternoon, the Caterham duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov were the first to switch to the medium tyres, before many of the frontrunners also moved to the White tyre halfway through the second session to carry out qualifying simulations. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso held the top spot for several minutes, before being supplanted by Button with 40 minutes to go, who was in turn beaten by his team mate Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton ended up setting the fastest time of the session: 1m25.290s on the P Zero White medium.
Today's free practice session contained two firsts: the first time a Chinese driver took part in a Formula One weekend, thanks to Ma Qing Hua who drove for HRT, and Jerome d'Ambrosio's competitive debut for Lotus. Both acquitted themselves well and were quickly up to speed on their first taste of Pirelli's tyres in free practice.
Paul Hembery: "Despite the typically warm conditions in Monza our tyres performed very well, with the hard compound in particular delivering almost as much performance as the medium, with greater durability. We might see different approaches tomorrow, and some drivers could even try a one-stop strategy for the race: the winning tactic in Belgium a week ago, which used the same compounds. Although there are many places in Monza that put a lot of energy through the tyres, the overall wear rate has been very good today, which allowed a number of the drivers to set their fastest times later on in their runs. We saw some very long runs on both compounds so we should see flat-out racing from start to finish on Sunday - which is what our home race at Monza is most famous for. For the first time in a while we look set for a completely dry weekend, which should allow the teams to start the race with plenty of relevant data."
Last year's winner, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, used a two-stop strategy to win from pole. Starting from pole position is an important advantage at Monza: since 2000 there have been nine victories from pole position.
Sets used overall:
Hard: 49Medium: 24
Highest number of laps per compound:
Hard: 30Medium: 24
Longest runs per compound:
Hard: 17 (Petrov, Button)Medium: 18 (Di Resta, Schumacher, Raikkonen)
Facts of the day:
Understanding the effects of fuel load on the tyres is one of the priorities that the teams address during free practice. Each 10 kilograms of fuel adds about four-tenths of a second to the lap time. Disabling the DRS (Drag Reduction System) in free practice at Monza adds about seven-tenths of a second to the lap time.
For its home race, Pirelli has brought some Formula One atmosphere to the centre of Milan, by recreating a pit garage close to the company's headquarters, where fans get the chance to take part in a pit stop and drive an F1 simulator.
Check out our Friday gallery, here.
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