- Jul 23, 2014
Ahead of yesterday's revelation that Mercedes would use all their remaining engine development tokens during the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Lewis Hamilton led both of Friday's free practice sessions, as he and teammate Nico Rosberg left all their rivals - Ferrari included - in their vapour trails at Monza.
Here's a summary of the two Friday practice sessions:
Free Practice 1
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, newly-blonde hair and all, set the benchmark in the first practice session of the day, and a blistering one at that. His best time of 1:24.670 was not only a second and a half quicker than last year's best time from this session, but one and a half seconds quicker than any of Mercedes' rivals could manage. Nico Rosberg was nearly a half-second back of Hamilton's best time, his 1:25.133 still over a second faster than Sebastian Vettel's fastest lap in the Ferrari - a 1:26.258.
The most impressive performance came from the Sahara Force India pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, who finished fourth and fifth in the opening practice session, both ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. The fastest Renault-engined car, the Red Bull RB11 of Daniel Ricciardo, was 2.2 seconds behind Hamilton's benchmark in seventh, ahead of the two Williams Mercedes of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, and Lotus' Pastor Maldonado completed the top ten.
Jolyon Palmer stood in for Romain Grosjean in FP1 at Lotus, and the outgoing GP2 Series champion turned in the fifteenth-fastest time. The session was interrupted by just one red flag, when Carlos Sainz spun his Toro Rosso at Parabolica and ended up beached in the gravel at the end of the run-off area.
Free Practice 2
Midway through FP2, Hamilton found another four-tenths of a second in his Mercedes W06 to finish with a best time of 1:24.279 - though Rosberg clawed to within 0.021 seconds of his World Champion teammate. Having already demonstrated overwhelming pace, Hamilton and Rosberg ended the session working on long runs, as did most of the field.
Vettel maintained his berth as "best of the rest," third by a much closer margin of seven-tenths adrift of Hamilton's best time. Hulkenberg and Perez continued Force India's remarkable early form at Monza as their Mercedes-powered cars were fastest in the speed traps at 356 km/h - but it was Perez who got the better of Hulkenberg in the afternoon by 0.047 seconds. Raikkonen held sixth, ahead of the Lotus pairing of Grosjean and Maldonado who were separated by 0.016 seconds - even closer than Hamilton and Rosberg. Valtteri Bottas in ninth, and Felipe Massa in tenth for Williams, completed the top ten.
An "anomaly" within the McLaren Honda at Jenson Button forced him to park just thirty minutes into the session, allowing both the Manor Marussias to get ahead of him by the end of the session. Max Verstappen had a wild ride through Variante Ascari, spinning off and nearly stuffing the back of his Toro Rosso into the barriers. Daniil Kvyat bizarrely spent most of the session mired down the order, and was unable to set a flying lap early on - finishing an unrepresentative 20th.
If the Mercedes pairing have still yet to realize the full pace of their fully-developed power unit today, we could see Rubens Barrichello's fastest race lap record of 1:21.046 threatened in qualifying tomorrow.
Results to follow.