Nico Rosberg set the pace in the first practice session ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, taking top spot with 0.2s in hand over championship rival Lewis Hamilton.
The winner of last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Rosberg continued his good form at high-speed Monza finishing over a second clear of his nearest non-works Mercedes rival, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari are running an upgraded power unit for the team’s home race.
Both Rosberg and Hamilton had been quickest on the supersoft tyre, but later in the session both men went quicker on the soft compound. Raikkonen’s best time was also set on the soft compound Pirelli rubber.
Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth place in the second Ferrari, 0.26s behind his Finnish team-mate, while behind the Italian squad’s drivers Mercedes-powered Force India made a solid start to its weekend with Sergio Perez finishing in fifth place, just over three tenths of a second behind Vettel. The second Force India, piloted by test driver Alfonso Celis ended the session in P12.
Sixth place went to Haas’ Romain Grosjean, who also benefited from the upgraded Ferrari powerplant. The Frenchman managed to use its improved performance to pip Mercedes-powered Williams driver Valtteri Bottas who finished the session two hundredths of a second behind the Haas driver.
There was a less impressive start to the weekend for Red Bull Racing, however. The Renault-powered squad have regularly found Monza to be one of their unhappiest hunting grounds and Max Verstappen’s eighth place this morning, a full two seconds adrift of Rosberg, coupled with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo’s 10thplace suggests Red Bull may struggle to make an impact this weekend.
The Red Bulls were split in the opening session by the second Haas of Esteban Gutierrez who finished with a time of 1:25.113, 0.35s down on team-mate Grosjean.
As in Belgium last weekend, the Halo cockpit protection system was again tested during FP1, with McLaren’s Jenson Button, Verstappen and Perez all completing runs with the device fitted. In Belgium Rosberg had set the first timed lap with the system in use and Button followed his lead by setting his first timed lap with Halo on board.
2016 Italian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.959 37
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.162 36
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:24.047 16
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.307 17
5 Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.650 32
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:24.763 17
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.785 37
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:24.982 25
9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:25.113 19
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:25.120 17
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1:25.351 23
12 Alfonso Celis Force India 1:25.367 30
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:25.507 14
14 Felipe Massa Williams 1:25.840 18
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:25.853 20
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:25.973 20
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:26.074 20
18 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:26.391 30
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:26.439 21
20 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:26.762 28
21 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:26.811 35
22 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:26.956 32