Lewis Hamilton topped the times for McLaren in Friday’s second free practice session ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix,the Briton bouncing back from his errant and luckless display in Belgium with a forceful performance.
The 27-year-old showed few after-effects from the opening lap crash that wrecked his race last Sunday,when the 2008 world champion was also embarrassed by having to remove various ill-judged ‘Tweets’ containing team information,by outpacing McLaren team-mate and compatriot Jenson Button.
Hamilton,linked with a possible move to Mercedes next year,clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 25.290 seconds while Button was just behind him with 1:25.325,a narrow gap that endorsed the overall advantage of the McLaren team ahead of their rivals.
These were led by the two Ferraris of Spanish two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Brazilian Felipe Massa who gave a sparse crowd at the old Autodromo Nazionale something to cheer with a show of speed that promised more than it proved.
It was,alas,a troubled day for Alonso who suffered an engine failure in the morning session when German veteran Michael Schumacher topped the times for Mercedes and then endured brake and gearbox problems in the afternoon.
German Nico Rosberg was fifth fastest for Mercedes ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen,in the leading Lotus,with Briton Paul Di Resta seventh for Force India ahead of team-mate German Nico Hulkenberg,Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber and
Australian Mark Webber and his Red Bull team-mate defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany were down in 11th and 13th places,either side of 12th man Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio,on his debut with the Lotus team as replacement this weekend for suspended Frenchman Romain Grosjean.
Grosjean was banned for causing the accident that wiped out Hamilton,Alonso,Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber and himself last Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps.
On a perfect late summer’s day in the former royal park,with the air temperature touching 30 degrees Celsius and the track temperature at 42 degrees,McLaren were always fastest in the build up to this weekend’s final race of the European part of the F1 season.
Button went top after 16 minutes after Indian Narain Karthikeyan had run off in his Hispania. Rosberg then took over briefly before being succeeded by Alonso before Hamilton and Button re-exerted their control on proceedings with fastest laps in the closing stages.
For Hamilton,it was a confidence-boosting outing after his recent problems and though he gave little away it was clear he enjoyed being back at the sharp end of the action after his frustrations in Belgium.