Lewis Hamilton grabbed the headlines once again, although this time for his exploits on the track, by setting the fastest time on Friday afternoon ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. The Briton was less than a tenth ahead of McLaren teammate Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso as the Ferrari driver encountered reliability problems for the second time today.
Michael Schumacher had set the pace in morning practice but his chances of doing the same this afternoon were damaged immediately as Mercedes informed him that his DRS had failed. Schumacher, a five-time winner around Monza, wasn’t cheered by a trio through the Roggia chicane run-off, prompting him to complain to the stewards over the severity of the kerbs in the escape road.
While Michael was having a difficult afternoon, his teammate was looking strong and led the session twenty minutes in, all-but matching Schumacher’s FP1 time. Nico Rosberg’s lead lasted four minutes before Fernando Alonso clocked the fastest time of the weekend, a 1:25.350, but none of the big guns had fitted the option tyres yet.
Shortly before the halfway mark, Kimi Raikkonen was the first major contender to try the medium compound and jumped up to fourth, trailing Rosberg and the two Ferraris, but the substantial improvements weren’t coming from the softer rubber.
Jenson Button did go quicker on his first attempt but only found three tenths from his time on the harder tyre, moving him back in front of Raikkonen, and it wasn’t until the third flying lap that the McLaren came on strong. As he had been all day, Button was quickest of all in sector one and just about held on over the rest of the lap to pip Alonso by two hundredths of a second.
Shortly after his teammate’s run, Lewis Hamilton took to the track on medium tyres and followed a similar trend, going slower initially before picking up speed as the run unfolded. The second flying lap would deliver a 1:25.290 and leave McLaren with a 1-2 that would last for the rest of the day.
Alonso did go a fraction faster on the medium tyres but not enough to usurp the McLarens and the championship leader would see another session halted prematurely as his Ferrari became stuck in second gear. Alonso limped back to the pits and missed out on any race simulation work but the gearbox had been a practice unit and he will avoid a grid penalty.
Just a quarter of a second covered the top eight this afternoon with Alonso and Massa third and fourth ahead of Rosberg, Raikkonen and the two Force Indias. Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg set near identical times for seventh and eighth as the potency of the Mercedes engine was demonstrated once again. Sergio Perez was ninth ahead of Michael Schumacher in the slowest Mercedes-powered car with his pace slowed by the lack of DRS.
Red Bull’s uncompetitive day continued with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel eleventh and thirteenth, sandwiching Jerome d’Ambrosio’s Lotus while another man to endure a difficult afternoon was Kamui Kobayashi who was sidelined by a reliability problem after seventeen laps.