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Hamilton leads McLaren 1-2 in opening session

NEWS STORY
09/09/2011

Ahead of today's opening free practice session, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 19 degrees. It is bright and typically glorious.

As in Germany and Belgium, the tyre compounds available this weekend are medium (prime) and soft (option), while, for the first time ever, there are two distinctly separate DRS zones, one on the main pit straight, the other on the run from the second Lesmo to Ascari.

As ever, this being the fastest track on the calendar, almost all the teams are running low downforce packages with lots of new rear wings and front wings.

At Force India, Nico Hulkenberg replaces Paul di Resta in this session while Karun Chandhok is in Jarno Trulli's Lotus.

Red Bull have been playing down their chances here, but then again, that's what they did in Belgium.

Kovalainen gets the session underway, joined by d'Ambrosio, Kobayashi, Buemi, Alguersuari and Petrov. Jenson Button is the first of the big guns to go out.

Seven minutes into the session everyone has been out. It is noticeable that the McLarens are running significantly more rear wing than their rivals. Red Bull and Mercedes are also running updated diffusers, consequently there is lots of high-viz flow-paint as the teams study the results.

D'Ambrosio is the first out for a second run as the TV cameras focus on Lewis Hamilton's new earrings. The Belgian crosses the line at 1:43.577 to post the first time of the weekend.

Looking set to improve by a couple of seconds, d'Ambrosio aborts his next lap and dives into the pits as attention shifts to Button who is on track. Unsurprisingly, the McLaren driver is quicker in the first two sectors before diving into the pits. A typical test run.

Alonso comes out for an early run, much o the delight of the partisan crowd. However, like his rivals, the Spaniard, having completed two very fast sectors, dives into the pits.

On the half hour, Ricciardo is the second driver to post a time, the Australian going quickest with a 34.675.

Chandhok, who lost a mirror on his installation lap, is now suffering a problem with his steering wheel, "it's not working" he moans as he slowly crawls his way back to the pits.

As more drivers take to the track, Ricciardo raises the benchmark with a 33.223, 1.648s clear of Perez who is the third driver to post a time.

A 29.779 sees Alguersuari go quickest as Perez improves with a 31.922 but remains second.

As Vettel begins his first flying lap of the day, Kobayashi goes second ahead of Buemi and Perez. Moments later however, Hulkenberg takes second with a 28.502.

Vettel is the first of the big guns to post a time, the Red Bull driver going fifth with a 29.793. Alguersuari remains the pace setter, the Spanish musician now down to 27.224.

Next time round, having passed Massa in the Parabolica, Vettel goes second with a 27.666. Elsewhere, Petrov makes a meal of the second chicane.

As Vettel goes quickest (26.381), teammate Webber posts 30.747 to go eleventh.

Alonso is back on track and looking likely to post his first time of the weekend. The weather, certainly today, is ideal for the Ferrari, ass proven by Massa who goes third with a 27.379.

Buemi runs wide and runs through the gravel at Ascari, elsewhere Vettel improves to 25.914. Alonso goes twelfth with a 29.257.

Not for the first time, it's a Red Bull 1-2 as Webber posts 26.717 to join his teammate at the top of the timesheets.

Having gone tenth on his first lap, Hamilton improves to 25.925, thereby splitting the Red Bull duo. Button, like Rosberg, Schumacher, Glock and Barrichello, has yet to post a time.

A real rarity in F1, Alguersuari is absolutely delighted with his car, everything is perfect he says.

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