Rosberg on top as Mercedes stamp their authority in FP1

Großer Preis von Belgien 2016, Sonntag. Credit: Mercedes AMG PETRONAS

Nico Rosberg topped the times in the first practice session of the weekend ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, by two tenths of a second, from Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with both drivers finishing well ahead of the other teams.

The German set a time of 1:22.959, nearly half a second faster than last year’s pole time, to take the top spot on the soft compound tyre. It was a relatively quiet session where the unmarked, prototype Pirelli tyres were available for the driver’s to use, in addition to the three compounds usually supplied by the Italian manufacturer, as they were in Spa.

Kimi Raikkonen was third in the Scuderia Ferrari, having put in a strong lap to once again finish ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who was two tenths further back in fourth. The Italian outfit have used their three remaining development tokens to allow an engine upgrade this weekend, and although they are not expecting a massive boost from the update, they are hoping that it will help them make a small step forward with performance at their home race.

Sergio Perez was a strong fifth for Sahara Force India, two tenths ahead of Romain Grosjean in the first of the Haas F1 Team machines. The American outfit have also received a boost from the upgraded Ferrari engine this weekend, and looks to be so far, so good for the newest kids on the F1 block.

Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Williams Martini Racing, and the Finn was a busy bee throughout the first part of the session as he racked up his lap tally to 37, with only Rosberg completing as many. It is a strong finish for the Oxfordshire based squad, who tend to look a little off the pace on a Friday.

Max Verstappen, who had the halo attached to his RB12 for his first couple of laps during FP1, finished the session in eighth. The Dutchman was struggling with grip throughout FP1 and was the first of the Red Bull Racing cars home, which will not have been the sort of performance the Milton Keynes based squad had been hoping for at Monza.

Esteban Gutierrez in the second Haas car was ninth, perhaps somewhat surprisingly ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull, who rounded out the top ten. After starting the session later than most over drivers, Ricciardo and Verstappen just could not get the performance expected from the RB12 in this first practice session of the weekend. They will most certainly be hoping to improve as the weekend goes on.

McLaren-Honda F1 driver Jenson Button, who tested out the halo cockpit protection device during the early part of FP1, finished in eleventh place, just a tenth up on Sahara Force India reserve driver Alfonso Celis Jnr, who replaced Nico Hulkenberg in the VJM09 for this FP1 session.

Fernando Alonso was thirteenth, two tenths down on Button, but did experience technical issues with his gearbox at the very end of the session. The Spaniard was told to make his way back to the pits slowly, remaining in fourth gear as he went.

Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa, who is competing in his final Italian Grand Prix this weekend after announcing his retirement from the sport yesterday, finished in fourteenth spot. The Brazilian had a disrupted session after experiencing a boost issue on his installation lap. The Williams mechanics had to replace a component before allowing him back out on track, and that cost the 34-year-old approximately thirty minutes of lost time in the first part of the session.

Marcus Ericsson was a credible fifteenth in the first of the Sauber F1 Team cars. The updates brought to Belgium last weekend by the Swiss squad, appear to be working much better here at Monza.

Carlos Sainz Jnr and team-mate Daniil Kvyat were sixteenth and seventeenth respectively, as Scuderia Toro Rosso continue to struggle in finding their early season performance in the STR11. The Faenza based squad of course are not allowed to make any engine upgrades this year, after taking the 2015 specification Ferrari engine at the start of the season.

Esteban Ocon was eighteenth in the first Manor Racing Team machine. A good recovery from the Frenchman after having a small issue in the early part of the session. The 19-year-old was four tenths quicker than his team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, who finished just behind the Sauber of Felipe Nasr, in twentieth place.

The two Renault Sport F1 Team cars of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen, disappointingly brought up the rear for the French squad.

Heading into the second practice session, Mercedes clearly lead the way, however it was a poor session for the likes of Red Bull, so will we see them move closer up the order in FP2? It was also very tight between the midfield pack, so it will be interesting to see if any of those teams can come out on top by the end of the day.

2016 Italian Grand Prix – FP1 Results

16Nico RosbergGERMercedes1:22.95937
244Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes1:23.16236
37Kimi RäikkönenFINFerrari1:24.04716
45Sebastian VettelGERFerrari1:24.30717
511Sergio PerezMEXForce India1:24.65032
68Romain GrosjeanFRAHaas1:24.76317
777Valtteri BottasFINWilliams1:24.78537
833Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull Racing1:24.98225
921Esteban GutierrezMEXHaas1:25.11319
103Daniel RicciardoAUSRed Bull Racing1:25.12017
1122Jenson ButtonGBRMcLaren1:25.35123
1234Alfonso Celis JnrMEXForce India1:25.36730
1314Fernando AlonsoSPAMcLaren1:25.50714
1419Felipe MassaBRAWilliams1:25.84018
159Marcus EricssonSWESauber1:25.85320
1655Carlos SainzSPAToro Rosso1:25.97320
1726Daniil KvyatRUSToro Rosso1:26.07420
1831Esteban OconFRAManor1:26.39130
1912Felipe NasrBRASauber1:26.43921
2094Pascal WehrleinGERManor1:26.76228
2130Jolyon PalmerGBRRenault1:26.81135
2220Kevin MagnussenDENRenault1:26.95632