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Italian Grand Prix Friday Analysis: Mercedes Not Running Away

Free Practice 1

Friday morning at a very overcast Monza went ahead with very few issues for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, despite having four runners who do not usually run a full race weekend. Daniel Juncadella was in place of Sergio Perez’ Force India for the first half hour, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde had another FP1 session in Romain Grosjean’s Lotus and Adrian Sutil’s Sauber respectively and a newcomer in 2011 Formula 3 champion Roberto Merhi in a Formula One car for the first time as he replaced Kamui Kobayashi at Caterham. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Mercedes were absolutely mighty around the forests of Monza, where speed and traction are the two most important things. What was surprising was the speed of McLaren, with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen second and fifth in the morning session, the former splitting the two works Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who were top and third respectively. Ferrari seem to have resolved some of their powertrain issues as the cars powered by their unit didn’t seem as bad as that of the Renault-powered teams.

Interestingly, Merhi ended up quicker than team mate Marcus Ericsson by 0.144s, despite being considerably less experienced. As expected, the cars are already quicker than what they were last year in a straight line, but perhaps not as much as some expected. Perez was the driver to go quickest before running wide at the very fast Ascari chicane.

Free Practice 1 top 10:

  1. #44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.187
  2. #22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes +0.623
  3. #6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.808
  4. #14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +0.982
  5. #20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes +1.041
  6. #1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault +1.084
  7. #7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.306
  8. #11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes +1.500
  9. #26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault +1.554
  10. #27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes +1.925


Free Practice 2

In FP2, both Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo hit major trouble at the start of the session, with the Brit spending a very long time in the pits. He did get out towards the end of the session, with half an hour to go. Despite this setback, he was only fractions behind team mate Rosberg. It was also a largely uneventful session although Grosjean’s Lotus went rallying on more than one occasion at the Lesmo corners. Perhaps surprising was the speed of Ferrari, who were third and fourth in the session. Williams seemed somewhat disappointing although they seemed to have a much better long run pace, as well as Red Bull, while McLaren were in the top ten yet again.

In short, it looks very unlikely that Mercedes will be challenged here by Williams as expected, but they do seem far closer, as well as Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull with Force India who went even faster in a straight line this session having an outside chance on Saturday and Sunday, both of which are expected to remain dry.

Free Practice 2 top 10:

  1. #6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.225
  2. #44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.061
  3. #7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.106
  4. #14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +0.340
  5. #77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes +0.533
  6. #22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes +0.537
  7. #1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault +0.537
  8. #20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes +0.656
  9. #19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes +0.710
  10. #3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault +0.767

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