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The times are super close as Hamilton sets the pace in Monza
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Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Sep 2012   |  4:54 pm GMT  |  52 comments

The Italian Grand Prix is shaping up to be a thriller with close times set through the field and the top eight cars separated by 0.25 seconds in a fascinating Free Practice session 2 at Monza.

Lewis Hamilton didn’t seem to distracted by being the centre of attention over his possible Mercedes move; he set the fastest time for McLaren ahead of team mate Jenson Button, three hundredths of a second behind.

Fernando Alonso set the third fastest time despite a problem ridden day which saw a forced engine change after FP1, a brake problem and a gearbox problem. He managed just 17 laps in the afternoon compared to 42 for his team mate Massa.

Although the faster times were set on the medium compound Pirelli tyres, the teams did a lot of set up work on the hard tyre today, for race preparation, as the strategy looks like being one stop on Sunday. Looking after the front right is the key for a stint of up to 30 laps, which is what we will see on Sunday. There is no room for flat spotting a tyre if they are to make the strategy work, so the multiple lock ups and missed braking points will have to be eradicated on Sunday.

If the headline lap times were close, so was the the performance on the long runs. Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen was astonishingly consistent on a 17 lap run and a little faster than Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, but based on previous weekend’s it’s possible Lotus may have slightly less fuel on board. Either way we have the front running teams very well matched with McLaren still the team to beat.

Meanwhile both Mercedes drivers were forced to work on race runs by DRS problems. They have brought an interesting looking car here, with a front wing which goes back in philosophy to Montreal time. This could be one of their most competitive outings for a while.

It was interesting to see that for many of the front runners the fastest lap on the medium tyre was the second or third, despite track temperatures of 40 degrees. This will make qualifying interesting as some of the drivers may only be able to fit in one run in Q3 on that basis. Button set his fastest time on the third lap of the run, while Hamilton did two hard laps and got the time on the second.


The Saubers and Force Indias look sharp too, underlining how tight competition will be for places in Q3. The pressure is certainly on the Sauber drivers to deliver the strong results their car is capable of. Perez has two podiums this year and brings a lot of funding to the team, but there is strong competition from outside for Kobayashi’s seat and he needs to deliver in the next few races.

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, MONZA, Friday Practice 2
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m25.290s 32
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m25.328s + 0.038s 35
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.348s + 0.058s 17
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.430s + 0.140s 43
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.446s + 0.156s 41
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m25.504s + 0.214s 42
7. Paul di Resta Force India 1m25.546s + 0.256s 40
8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m25.547s + 0.257s 36
9. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m26.068s + 0.778s 32
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.094s + 0.804s 38
11. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m26.104s + 0.814s 35
12. Jerome d’Ambrosio Lotus 1m26.157s + 0.867s 36
13. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m26.394s + 1.104s 31
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m26.404s + 1.114s 42
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m26.724s + 1.434s 33
16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m26.730s + 1.440s 17
17. Bruno Senna Williams 1m26.783s + 1.493s 39
18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m26.841s + 1.551s 39
19. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m26.864s + 1.574s 36
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m27.222s + 1.932s 36
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m27.944s + 2.654s 36
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m27.968s + 2.678s 36
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m28.575s + 3.285s 34
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m28.779s + 3.489s 21

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52 Comments
  1. AlexD says:

    Alonso for the win, please! Vettel to struggle, please!

    1. Julian Smallwood says:

      Please!

      1. kfzmeister says:

        Please :-)

      2. Murali says:

        Sorry both will struggle and Alonso may not even score a point and Kimi will win.

      3. AlexD says:

        For things to be fair, we need either Grosjean or Maldonado to taken our Vettel, Button and Kimi. This is going to bring back the right balanced to the system.

      4. James Clayton says:

        @AlexD I don’t think Grosjean will be taking anybody out this week!

      5. Elie says:

        Yep Felipe clip Lewis at start drop him 10 places. Seb caught up in incident & retires- slowing Button in process. Fernando mechanical failure and drops out- Kimi sneaks through to take first win of 2012. Di Resta 2nd Whilst Lewis fights back for a strong 3rd, Button 4th, Webber 5th Roseberg 6th would be beautiful.lol

  2. Kay says:

    My money is on Alonso, then Hamilton, Vettel.

    Ferrari may not handle well but sure it has straightline speed. I think he’ll put in a very fighty drive similar to Valencia.

  3. Raj Shekhar says:

    Mclaren vs Ferrari vs Raikkonen vs Mercedes vs Red Bull this Sunday. Cannot ask for more!

    The Mercedes should go better here in Monza than at the last few races and the Red Bulls should be good in the race and both Webber and Vettel have made places on the starting grid this year. Raikkonen and Alonso will be consistent, the Mclarens will be quick and Mercedes will start as one of the favourites.

    Ultimately, pressure on the Pit Crew this weekend on that 1st stop :D

  4. KAlan says:

    James, I think Alonso never ran the medium tyre in free practice 2. His time looks pretty good considering it was done on the harder compound. Can you kindly recheck?

    1. James Clayton says:

      Most people didn’t improve very much, if at all, on the medium tyre, though.

  5. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    At the start of the year it had had concerns about what boring could be qualify this year if the drivers wanted to save tyres for the race.

    Now I think we got a very entertaining qualify with such amount of cars for the top 10 spots.

    I think now the tyres are less important in qualify and more important the driver with such a tinny time gaps.

  6. Rob says:

    James, where i can read or listen about your morning interview with Koby?

  7. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    JAMES, OFF TOPIC, I WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT YOU IN PRIVATE.
    You have my email address.
    Thanks

  8. Krishna says:

    James, could you comment on who may be in the running for Kamui’s seat?

    Additionally, do you see a chance for Rubens to make a comeback?

    1. Ani Iyer says:

      My money would be on Kovalainen or Glock.

  9. Haydn Lowe says:

    As exciting as this title run in will inevitably be, and as keen as I am to see Alonso extend his lead, I am sincerely hoping that Merc are not flattering to deceive with their pace and can deliver a well overdue win for Schumi. I’m inclined to believe the rumours about his retirement, and I cannot think of a finer swansong for the former champ, in front of the fans for whom he brought so much joy in the ’00′s. Even such a relentless competitor as Schumacher could enter his second retirement with his head high following a Monza victory. FORZA SCHUMI!

  10. Flintelli says:

    Ferrari the team to beat!

    1. W Johnson says:

      How do you reach that conclusion when McLaren have confirmed there strength with a P1 and P2 on pole?

  11. Ashish Sharma says:

    James,

    From a country which does not get a broadcast of the free practices, it was nice to get to hear you on BBC Radio5 Live. Don’t know if it is possible, but can you post a link to that here as the BBC site is difficult to navigate.

    Also i had tried reaching you on your email id but the mail had bounced. Is there a limit to the attachment size.

  12. Hermann says:

    Hi James,

    Its 20.00 CET and Alex Zanardi has just won his second gold medal in the paralympic games 2012.

  13. Dren says:

    Looking at the times, Schumacher looked the best to me over long runs. I expect him to qualify well and fight for a victory.

  14. Mayank says:

    I read at some other site that mercedes has brought an update for their drs system and calling it as Triple DRS…. Are the drs problem faced by mercedes driver was due to this update or something else?

    James your insight on this matter please.

  15. IanS says:

    I really hope Schumi goes well

  16. Michael S says:

    Kimi’s race pace looks great, but I fear the usual starting in 6th place and by the time he clears the likes of the Mercedes the Macca’s and Ferrari’s will be in the distance.

  17. dc says:

    James, I have been suspecting for quite a while that Koba’s position is in jeopardy. I believe there have been rumors Kovalainen may replace him, but can you shed a bit more light who else has got a chance there? I personally would like him to keep the seat as I feel Perez and Koba complement each other very well, but if he was to go I hope Sauber consider Alguersuari – this is a diver with def unfinished business in F1.

    1. Julian says:

      Unfortunately I feel the same way with Koba… which is a real shame but I think the Sauber team have their part to blame of insistently splitting strategies (a la Force India) and genuine misfortune on his part on a few occasions. His peaks in qualifying have been very good but is lacking consistency and overdriving when the pressure is really on. Another negative is the notorious lack of sponsorship he still brings which may suggest even back home they don’t believe in him…

      Speaking of FI, Hulk is most definitely beating di Resta of late – still going to McLaren/Mercedes after all?

  18. Anil says:

    Really have my fingers crossed for Schumacher this weekend, car looks very strong, particularly in qualifying. Go on schumi!!

  19. Frankie says:

    Good form from Caterham! I think one can now say they are in the midfield; albeit at the back! Hopefully, if their race pace is any good, they’ll be able to fight the likes of Torro Rosso and maybe Williams. Can’t see any points coming their way on Sunday though.

  20. SP says:

    Dream podium here would be Alonso, Kimi and Michael. The Tifosi would go wild! But those Mclarens will be hard to beat.

    On the long-runs, Schumi looked quick but inconsistent (tyres), Massa was thereabouts and consistent and Kimi was quick too and very consistent. He was fastest amongst the frontrunners in the speed traps too, so it’ll help. Just needs to qualify well! Mclaren seem to be holding back a little in the long runs though. As for RBR, well we will find out tomorrow if they were carrying sand bags.

    The run down to turn one is going to be brilliant. Pitstops will be crucial! Especially if we have a close one like JB vs Alonso in 2010.

  21. Nigel says:

    “the strategy looks like being one stop on Sunday.’

    Surely one stopping is going to be quite difficult for most teams ?

    I could be wrong, but I would be very surprised if Mercedes, for example, is able to do so.

    1. James Allen says:

      As Kimi would say ‘ Let’s wait and see’

      1. Nigel says:

        But Kimi’s in a Lotus – he’ll have no problem one stopping.

        :-)

    2. KRB says:

      Pirelli’s Hembery said that the hard could practically do the full race distance on its own. Unless they’re off on their calc’s, it’ll be one-stopper’s all around.

  22. Jake Pattison says:

    Is there any grid penalty for Alonso changing engines?

    1. James Allen says:

      No only when he uses a 9th. He would have changed the Friday engine anyway, as they all have done for todsy

      1. Mitchel says:

        Why’s it gone all quiet regarding the Lotus ‘device’ now?!

      2. James Clayton says:

        It’s not gone quiet. They’re not using it here as there’s little benefit to them, especially as their top speed is pretty low anyway.

        Plus everyboy brings a one-off Monza spec package to this race. Trying to sort that out AND calibrate the device at the same time, whilst also getting a new driver up to speed, might just prove a little too much for the 4 hours of practice they get!

      3. Jake Pattison says:

        Thanks, good to know.

  23. steevo says:

    Is this the closest the Caterham cars have been to the pack?

  24. Geenimetsuri says:

    Lotus struggled with low maximum speed in Spa.

    I have to wonder if it really was all down to wing & gear ratio settings.

    It’ll be interesting to see how they do in Monza.

  25. Nigel says:

    Hi James.
    Just wanted to say thanks to you and Jaime for the excellent commentary in P3.

    Very nice Ferrari idea of towing to get the best quali time.
    I suspect this will probably compromise one of the drivers, though, so of the teams in contention for the championship, only those with a definite No1 might try this.

    Not Mclaren, then. Lotus won’t, as it’s a bit much to expect from a reserve driver. Red Bull will be interesting, as it might be the only way one of them gets into Q3 (and the other can start on new tyres).

    As for Ferrari, it just requires Massa getting into Q3.

    :-)

  26. Paul says:

    James – I was wondering if you could maybe answer my question regarding possible strategies for cars with penalties. As I understand it the race technically starts when the green flag Is waved for the parade lap. If a car then comes in to the pits at the end of this lap, waits until the race starts then changes tyres – does this count as a tyre change under the rule for running both types

    Reason I ask is as Maldonado has to take a penalty anyway would he be able to do this and then technically run the better choice of tyre twice even though it’s a one stop race. He might also avoid the first corner carnagev(or not cause any!)

    1. James Allen says:

      No, track position loss is too great.

      Plus one tyre isn’t significantly worse than the other. You’d only see extreme strategies when one tyre was 2 secs/lap slower than the other

  27. snailtrail says:

    James hope that wasnt you doing the interview today to the top three? – thought it quite disrespectful to ask Massa about Alonso’s quali problems…Massa may as well not turn up.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not at all, They were working as a team. Idea was for them to be 1-2 like McLaren pair were, so why not ask why Alonso not there with him?

    2. KRB says:

      Why? It’s not like JA would know anything about FA’s roll-bar at that time. How much of the team radio conversations are you allowed to listen in on JA? Is it filtered to you by Race Control first?

      1. James Allen says:

        None. We only get what they broadcast

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