Force India’s charge to the front of the F1 field continued during the practice sessions for the Italian Grand Prix – but all bets are off for qualifying thanks to the cards held by the KERS-equipped teams.
Adrian Sutil topped the unofficial timesheet during the second session, setting a fastest time of the day of 1:23.924, just outstripping the 1:23.936 lap set by Lewis Hamilton as he led a McLaren one-two in the first session.
Hamilton was testing his team’s low-downforce package for Monza and, despite shedding a fuel filler cap on an installation lap, pronounced himself pleased with progress.
He said: “It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you arrive at a unique circuit such as this because you want to see if you’ve taken the right direction with the car’s aerodynamics.
“But this morning’s session showed us that the engineers had made a very accurate assessment of what would be needed. KERS certainly helps around here – we can expect it to be worth nearly four tenths in qualifying tomorrow – but we also made some good progress with our overall package.
“This afternoon was spent on heavier fuel-loads, so you can’t read too much into the times, but I’m encouraged by where we are.”
The two Renault cars also put in highly competitive afternoon times to slot in behind Sutil in the second session, after a subdued morning for the beleagured outfit. But Fernando Alonso warned that he did not expect the team to feature in the top three during tomorrow’s qualifying, despite re-adopting KERS.
While Vitantonio Liuzzi, stepping up to replace Giancarlo Fisichella at Force India, managed no better than midfield in either session, Sutil made the medium compund tyres work spectacularly for him.
He said: “We didn’t try specifically to go fastest but if you are on top of your game and the car is working well there’s no reason why you couldn’t be P1 at the end of the session. It was a very productive day on a very cool track and it’s good to have some fun right now.”
Fisichella, now living his dream of driving for Ferarri in front of Italian fans, outpaced Kimi Raikkonen with a first session time of 1:24.732. He was slowest of the field in the second session, during which Raikkonen set his best time of 1:24.796.
“I feel satisfied with this first day, which was particularly tough from a driving point of view,” said Fisichella. “The potential is there to get onto the front few rows, but I need a bit more time to improve, especially in terms of braking and cutting the kerbs.”
Neither of the teams competing for the drivers’ and constructors’ titles were able to post times among the front-runners. Jenson Button’s 1:24.706 in the first session was good enough for 10th overall, outpacing team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Red Bull rivals Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel who ran a reduced schedule to protect his limited supply of engines.
Button said: “We did a lot of set-up work today with the car in the low downforce configuration although we had a couple of issues which meant that I couldn’t do the long runs that we had planned so that was a bit frustrating.
“Everything was sorted out by the end of the day which is good but we have a lot of work ahead of us. It feels very different running with such low downforce but the car has been performing reasonably well. We need to work on the fine-tuning of the set-up overnight to ensure that I’m completely happy with the balance before qualifying.”
Practice two times
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:23.924 (28 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:24.163 (31 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:24.297 (35 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:24.482 (41 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:24.622 (40 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:24.634 (36 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:24.693 (34 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:24.796 (39 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:24.799 (36 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:24.884 (44 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:24.902 (32 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:24.921 (39 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:24.967 (40 laps)
- Mark Webber: Red Bull: 1:24.979 (25 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:25.003 (34 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:25.140 (35 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:25.215 (38 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:25.386 (27 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:25.424 (32 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari: 1:25.543 (36 laps)
Practice one times
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:23.936 (26 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:24.332 (27 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:24.471 (24 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:24.477 (21 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:24.683 (25 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:24.703 (35 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn: 1:24.706 (21 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari: 1:24.732 (24 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:24.759 (19 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:24.761 (26 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:24.813 (20 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:24.826 (24 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:24.927 (29 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:25.150 (28 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:25.612 (18 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:25.689 (29 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:25.742 (30 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:25.951 (8 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:26.020 (23 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:26.325 (17 laps)