Hamilton quickest in tight opening session


Ahead of today's opening practice session, the air temperature is 27 degrees C and the track temperature is 30 degrees. It is bright and sunny and should remain so through to Saturday, though there is the threat of rain, even storms, on Sunday.

Tyre choices on this the fastest track on the calendar are hard (prime) and medium (option). There are two DRS zones, one on the main pit straight the other on the run from the second Lesmo to the Variante Ascari.

This being the last European round on the calendar, much is at stake both in terms of drivers seeking (or retaining) seats for 2014 and teams switching focus to next season having given up on this year's hopes.

There are three reserve drivers on duty this morning, James Calado at Force India (replacing Sutil), Rodolfo Gonzalez at Marussia (Bianchi) and Heikki Kovalainen at Caterham (Van der Garde). While the Gonzalez has taken part in practice sessions before, this is effectively Calado's F1 (weekend) baptism.

Red Bull has never been particularly successful here, the circuit not suiting the Austrian car, however, we used to say that about Spa.

Lotus is running a long wheelbase version of the E21 for Raikkonen, though this is thought to be aimed more at 2014.

The lights go green and Chilton leads the way, followed by Grosjean, Gonzalez, Gutierrez, Ricciardo, Bottas and Vergne.

Within the first couple of minutes all but Vettel have been out, cars sporting ever increasing amounts of flo-vis. Ferrari has a new low-downforce rear wing which has proved itself in simulations, now for the ultimate test.

Friday at Monza is a family day, hence generations of families take advantage of the opportunity to sit in the sun, enjoy a picnic and cheer on their beloved Ferrari. On his installation lap, plays to the gallery, waving to the tifosi.

As Race Control says the track is slippery in S1, Ricciardo complains of a "spongy" brake pedal and Hamilton laments a blurred display on his steering wheel.

As drivers, including Rosberg and Gutierrez, perform practice starts at the end of the pitlane, Race Control sends out a stern warning about where precisely these should be carried out.

As Gonzalez posts the first time of the weekend (1:34.918), Mercedes is running different rear wings on both its cars, the German team intending to back-to-back tests.

Gonzalez improves to 30.795 and then 30.277.

Twenty-five minutes into the session, with Gonzalez the only name on the sheet, Button is the second driver to post a time, the McLaren driver crossing the line at 29.494. The Woking outfit is continuing its 50th anniversary celebrations here this weekend.

As Button improves to 27.715, teammate Perez, thrilled by the prospect of a home race in 2014, begins his first flying lap. The Mexican goes second (27.899), as Chilton posts 29.075 to go third.

"Lots of oversteering at Ascari and the Parabolica," complains Button, "we need to go down with the front wing". Perez goes quickest with a 27.238.

Pic heads down the pitlane followed by Massa, you can guess who gets the crowd cheering.

Perez goes quickest in all three sectors, raising the bar to 26.007. Elsewhere, despite changes to the rear wing Button still isn't happy. Is he ever?

Grosjean goes fourth and Hulkenberg sixth, the German widely thought destined to be wearing Ferrari overalls in 2014.

Despite a vicious twitch going into the Parabolica, Massa posts 26.991 to go second, only to be demoted when Grosjean goes second (26.664).

Suddenly the session comes alive, as more and more drivers pour on to the track. Webber posts 27.672 to go fifth.

As Vettel goes ninth (27.875), teammate Webber, enjoying his last European F1 outing, goes fourth with a 26.652. Moments later, Vettel posts 26.056 to go second.

Vettel improves with a 25.914 as Rosberg also improves, albeit to tenth (27.201).

Approaching half-time, it's: Vettel, Perez, Webber, Massa, Grosjean, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Bottas, Button and Rosberg.

With Gutierrez, di Resta and Hamilton still to post a time, Raikkonen bangs in a 26.003 to go second, just 0.089s off Vettel's best. Elsewhere, a big lock up at T1 for Maldonado.

A 26.009 sees Alonso go fourth, as Hamilton finally leaves the pits to join in the fun.

Raikkonen improves (25.941) but remains second, while Hamilton's first flying lap sees the Mercedes driver go thirteenth (26.979).

Making full use of a tow on the pit straight, Alonso goes quickest, the Spaniard stopping the clocks at 25.863.

The stewards announce that Button is under investigation for "unauthorised use of DRS". That's one for the book. Prior to this, McLaren had warned the British driver that the flap was not closing properly aster use.

Hamilton improves to sixth with a 26.195 as Alonso communicates with his team in Italian about his tyres.

As Hamilton gets it all wrong at the second chicane, teammate Rosberg goes third with a 25.929.

After almost an hour, di Resta is the only driver still to post a time. Moments later the Scot goes nineteenth with a 28.488. The top thirteen are covered by just 1.008s.

Having gone quickest in S1, Hamilton crosses the line at 25.565 to go quickest, 0.298s ahead of Alonso. The Spaniard improves, going quickest in the first two sectors, but a mistake exiting the Parabolica means he can only close to within 0.035s of his former teammate.

Despite two very quick opening sectors, a messy S3 means Hamilton fails to improve.

While the Parabolica is causing problems for some drivers, others are losing out at the first and second chicanes.

Early days but both Force Indias are off the pace, as are the Williams.

Mistakes from Calado and Hulkenberg at T1 while Maldonado goes off at Ascari. Hulkenberg reports a gearbox problem and is told to return to the pits. Elsewhere, Rosberg misses the second chicane.

Fastest through the speed-trap is Calado (210.6 mph), ahead of Ricciardo, Hamilton, di Resta, Rosberg and Vergne. The British rookie is also amongst the busiest drivers having completed 16 laps.

Clearly still experiencing problems, Hulkenberg grinds to a halt in the pitlane, his crew rush to rescue him. Watching from the pits is Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin whose role with the team in 2014 remains shrouded in mystery.

As the clock counts down, and driver focus on longer runs on heavy fuel, Hamilton has a big slide as he exits the second Lesmo. The top fifteen covered by 1.029s.

Asked to repeat his last message, Hamilton remains totally inaudible.

At the very end of the session, Massa stops at the end of the pitlane after almost running into the back of his teammate who was performing a practice start. As the team run to recover the stranded Ferrari the Brazilian driver walks discontentedly back to his garage.

The session ends with Hamilton quickest, ahead of Alonso, Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez, Button, Webber, Maldonado and Vergne.

Gutierrez is eleventh, ahead of Grosjean, Ricciardo, Massa, di Resta, Bottas, Calado, Hulkenberg, Pic, Chilton, Kovalainen and Gonzalez.

Check out our Friday gallery, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 06/09/2013
Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2024. All rights reserved.