McLaren tops practice as Alonso hits trouble
7 September 2012 – Lewis Hamilton has led a McLaren one-two in Friday afternoon practice at Monza. Ferrari ended the session third and fourth but there was trouble for Fernando Alonso as he encountered brake and gearbox problems. Jérôme d’Ambrosio replaced Romain Grosjean at Lotus as Red Bull struggled to only 11th and 13th places.
Remarkably, this was Formula 1’s first all-dry Friday since Valencia 11 weeks ago. All involved took full advantage of that fact as Kimi Räikkönen set the first lap time of the session; his front wing had been repaired after a high-flying moment over a kerb in the morning. Later on, the field began switching to the Medium compound Pirelli tyre.
Those with the Mercedes engine clearly enjoyed an advantage throughout the day, although Michael Schumacher’s abilities were masked by a DRS problem. With the rear wing flap jammed shut, the seven-time World Champion ended the period in tenth position as team-mate Nico Rosberg entered the top five. Also in that group was the Ferrari duo, as Massa lapped the legendary track 43 times which was comfortably more than any rival.
The same could not be said for Alonso. At the end of FP1 he had stopped at the Rettifilo with an old engine which was about to expire. In this session, the championship leader - who is already on the back foot after being taken out of action at Spa - first encountered a brake problem which caused him to overshoot the first corner. As soon as he was back on-track, the Spaniard coasted around, stuck in second gear. Ferrari soon confirmed a gearbox failure and this may incur a five-place penalty ahead of Saturday’s qualifying period.
There were few yellow flag moments, but a number of drivers – not least Nico Rosberg, who hit a polystyrene marker board – missing their braking points at the first two chicanes. Vitaly Petrov ran into the gravel at the second Lesmo, but it was Räikkönen who escaped a potentially large accident by dropping his wheels into the dirt while exiting high-speed Ascari. On the same section of track, the air vent flew from the top of Massa’s helmet.
Räikkönen finished up sixth, with team-mate d’Ambrosio keeping his nose clean for 12th, sandwiched by Red Bulls; the Belgian, who is half Italian, ended his session with several practice pit-stops.
As Massa improved to fourth, Hamilton remained on top with his quickest lap time of 1:25.290, edging out Button by just 38 thousandths of a second as only half a tenth covered the top three. In the paddock, Hamilton is making headlines for another reason, as he has been connected with a Mercedes-Benz factory seat for next year.
Third and final practice in Italy commences at 11am local time (BST +1) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live report