Lewis Hamilton struck the first blow in the latest chapter of his championship battle with Nico Rosberg by topping the first free practice session at Monza. The pair were the focus of much scrutiny after their bust-up at Spa-Francorchamps but Hamilton showed no signs of a hangover, going quickest by 0.623s from McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Button was one of the surprises of the session, going quickest of all with half an hour remaining, but Hamilton quickly established Mercedes’ works team as the dominant force, clocking a 1:26.547 to usurp his compatriot before going three tenths faster to extend his lead. Button held onto second with Nico Rosberg unable to overhaul the McLaren, finishing 0.808s off the pace in third.
Fernando Alonso gave the Tifosi cause for optimism by taking fourth in the Ferrari ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the second McLaren while Sebastian Vettel ended the morning a competitive sixth for Red Bull. His teammate endured a disastrous morning though with Daniel Ricciardo sidelined with an engine problem. The in-form Australian was only able to complete 12 laps all morning as a result and fell to sixteenth in the final reckoning.
Kimi Raikkonen took seventh in the second Ferrari ahead of Sergio Perez, Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg with the Force India duo ensuring that Mercedes-power accounted for six of the top ten positions. The two that failed to trouble the leaders were Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa who, despite their prodigious straight-line speed, languished down in 12th and 13th.