The final race weekend of the European leg kicked off with Lewis Hamilton topping the time sheets in the first free practice session. Hamilton topped the time sheets with a 0.623 second margin back to ex-team-mate Jenson Button in second place and current team-mate Nico Rosberg rounding out the top three.
FP1 was used by many teams to hand their reserve or young drivers a chance at the wheel. Kobayashi sat out of his Caterham once more after missing the entire Belgian Grand Prix weekend. This time the Japanese driver will only miss FP1 as Caterham provide the 23-year-old Roberto Merhi a free practice drive. The other drivers who were sitting out the first session were Adrian Sutil (Sauber), Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Sergio Perez (Force India) as Giedo van der Garde (Sauber), Charles Pic (Lotus) and Daniel Juncadella (Force India). However Juncadella only participated during the opening half hour before Perez regained his car.
As the green light flicked on at the end of the pit lane, there was no hesitation from the drivers as many took to the track. And after six minutes every driver had completed an installation lap, with no lap times posted on the board for another nine minutes.
That first timed lap came courtesy of Max Chilton who completed a 1:33:435s. This time was incomparable to any competitive times soon posted as drivers shaved seconds off this. Max himself soon improved by around three seconds and Hamilton, at the top, a further three seconds faster.
By the end of the opening half hour, teams were handing back their first set of the Pirelli tyres whilst the two Silver Arrows sat in 1st and 2nd whilst the McLaren’s proved to be the closest challengers thus far. With Kevin Magnussen even holding the top spot during the first third of the session and Button held the top spot come the end of the middle third.
As for Caterham’s young driver gaining some on track F1 experience, Merhi, he was taking his time to get to grips with the new machinery at his disposal. By this he was being too aggressive on his throttle causing a lot of wheel spin and braking too early. He was also deploying his DRS too early.
Raikkonen continued to push his Ferrari in the team’s home race. Unfortunately, the profits were yet to show for the Finn as he lingered down the top 10 order for most of the session whilst his team-mate sat closer to the top three. For Kimi, he suffered oversteer through the Parabolica but was able to control it. Before going on to run two wheels over the green paint on the outside of the Parabolica. Although this did cause Kimi to slow in order to stay within track limits, without the modifications to this corner the gravel would have come into effect. Fellow Finn, Valtteri Bottas also benefitted from the new modifications to the run-off at Parabolica after suffering a big lock-up late into the session.
It wasn’t just the Finn’s taking to the run off at Monza in the morning. Championship leader Nico Rosberg took to the run-off at the second chicane whilst Merhi and Massa took to the run-off at the first chicane. Luckily for that trio, the first two chicanes all have designated run-off roads or paths in order for them to safely rejoin the track, but for Perez his mistake that forced him off at the Ascari chicane resulted in a bouncy ride over the gravel.
Yet come the chequered flag, it was once again a Mercedes sitting on the top spot, with Lewis Hamilton taking control. Jenson Button ended the session in second place with Rosberg taking third. Of course Monza is a very high-speed track which should benefit the Mercedes powered teams, but that didn’t stop Alonso taking fourth place.
Merhi managed to overtake Ericsson’s 22nd place after posting a 1:30:704 late on. Over 2 tenths of a second faster than Caterham’s current race driver. Possibly the worst results of the session would go to Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo. For the Australian, and now three-time Formula One race winner, he ended the session in 16th place behind both Sauber’s. However, Ricciardo was forced into an early retirement with a technical problem.
|6||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:27.271||1.084|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:27.687||1.500|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.112||1.925|
|15||36||Giedo van der Garde||Sauber-Ferrari||1:28.429||2.242|
|16||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:28.487||2.300|
|17||34||Daniel Juncadella||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.192||3.005|