Italian GP practice: McLaren edge ahead of Mercedes

After Friday practice at the Monza circuit, it appears as if McLaren are the team to beat this weekend.

However, Mercedes and Michael Schumacher have shown promising one-lap pace, and several technical issues in FP2 stopped them from showing their full potential. Ferrari have decent pace, and the gap between Alonso and Massa is at its lowest in years.

Red Bull, meanwhile, are disappointed with their pace, stating they need drastic improvements by tomorrow afternoon.

First practice

Much focus was on Ma Qing Hua, making his debut appearance for the HRT team, and the first ever Chinese driver to take part in an official F1 session.

He ended the day last, 1.9 seconds off Pedro de la Rosa. On his first flying lap, he misjudged the braking spot at the first chicane, and clattered over the kerbs.

Kimi Raikkonen made the same mistake, before later crashing his Lotus over the harsher kerbs of the Roggia (second) chicane.

Michael Schumacher set the fastest time on the harder tyre – a 1:25.422, over 0.3 seconds faster than Jenson Button. Teammate Nico Rosberg was third, followed by the two Ferraris.┬áThe Red Bulls struggled back in 9th and 11th.

There were two retirements near the end of the session, both appearing to be technical-related. Fernando Alonso stopped at the first chicane and Pastor Maldonado pulled over at Lesmo 1 with his DRS flap open.

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time      Gap     Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:25.422          26
 2.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.723  +0.301  29
 3.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:25.762  +0.340  26
 4.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1:25.800  +0.378  22
 5.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1:25.861  +0.439  27
 6.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.944  +0.522  30
 7.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1:26.046  +0.624  25
 8.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.323  +0.901  26
 9.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:26.390  +0.968  24
10.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1:26.504  +1.082  19
11.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1:26.508  +1.086  18
12.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1:26.518  +1.096  21
13.  Valtteri Bottas     Williams-Renault      1:26.641  +1.219  26
14.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.746  +1.324  23
15.  Jerome d'Ambrosio   Lotus-Renault         1:27.180  +1.758  29
16.  Jules Bianchi       Force India-Mercedes  1:27.192  +1.770  22
17.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:27.373  +1.951  25
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:27.789  +2.367  24
19.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1:27.855  +2.433  27
20.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1:28.578  +3.156  20
21.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1:28.751  +3.329  26
22.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1:29.207  +3.785  21
23.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1:29.331  +3.909  21
24.  Ma Qing Hua         HRT-Cosworth          1:31.239  +5.817  26

Second practice

Local hero Fernando Alonso was forced to retire again with 20 minutes to go in FP2, cruising back to the pits in second gear. Despite not appearing for the rest of the session, he still managed third place, 0.05 seconds off Lewis Hamilton.

The McLarens were separated by 3 hundreths of a second at the front. Again, the Ferraris were very evenly matched, but Mercedes were unable to perform in FP2, due to a raft of issues.

Both cars lost their DRS systems at some point during the session. Schumacher's car stopped communicating telemetry, while Rosberg suffered a variety of technical glitches.

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time      Gap     Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.290          32
 2.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1:25.328  +0.038  35
 3.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1:25.348  +0.058  17
 4.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1:25.430  +0.140  43
 5.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:25.446  +0.156  41
 6.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1:25.504  +0.214  42
 7.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1:25.546  +0.256  40
 8.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1:25.547  +0.257  36
 9.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.068  +0.778  32
10.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:26.094  +0.804  38
11.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:26.104  +0.814  35
12.  Jerome d'Ambrosio   Lotus-Renault         1:26.157  +0.867  36
13.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1:26.394  +1.104  31
14.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1:26.404  +1.114  42
15.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:26.724  +1.434  33
16.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1:26.730  +1.440  17
17.  Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      1:26.783  +1.493  39
18.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1:26.841  +1.551  39
19.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:26.864  +1.574  36
20.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1:27.222  +1.932  36
21.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.944  +2.654  36
22.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1:27.968  +2.678  36
23.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1:28.575  +3.285  34
24.  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth          1:28.779  +3.489  21
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