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Italian GP: Schumacher on top of first practice at Monza


By Berthold Bouman

Veteran Michael Schumacher was fastest for Mercedes during the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, round 12 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The German driver who still has many fans in Italy, lapped the Monza circuit in 1m25.433s and in total completed 26 laps, second was McLaren’s Jenson Button who seems to feel at home on high-speed circuits, he was just 0.301 seconds slower.

Schumacher fastest this morning at Monza

Third was the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, he also completed 26 laps and recorded a time of 1m25.762s. Fernando Alonso was fourth for Ferrari, but the Spaniard had a technical problem just before the end of the session, and had to park his car at the Variante Rettifilo. Felipe Massa was just a few hundredths of a second slower than his team mate and was fifth in the second Ferrari.

Hamilton was the first to set a timed lap at the historic Monza circuit this morning and recorded a time of 1m31.028s, but his fast lap was soon improved first by Felipe Massa, and later by Kimi Raikkonen who set the early benchmark at 1m27.369s.

At least this time teams had plenty of mileage to set up the car for Sunday’s race, or to test new aerodynamic parts, as it was a dry and sunny morning at Monza. Hamilton kept improving his time but despite his efforts did not get further than sixth place overall, 0.522 seconds slower than leader Schumacher.

Raikkonen finally finished in seventh position, and Sergio Perez took eighth position, while Kamui Kobayashi was 14th. In the spotlight were Jerome d’Ambrosio, who replaces the suspended Romain Grosjean at Lotus, and HRT’s Ma Qing Hua, the first Chinese-born driver to participate in an official Formula One event.

D’Ambrosio was certainly not as quick as his team mate Raikkonen and finished the morning in 15th place after completing 30 laps, while Qing Hua was 24th and last, 5.817 seconds behind the leader.

Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull driver and took ninth place, while Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull was 11th. Pastor Maldonado was tenth for Williams but had to retire with a technical problem, the Venezuelan driver parked his car in the grass just before the first Lesmo turn.

Valtteri Bottas took over from Bruno Senna this morning and landed 13th place, the Finn again showed he is just as fast as the regular Williams drivers and therefore could be in the running for a Williams race seat in 2013.

Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest Force India driver in 12th place, while Jules Bianchi, who took over the wheel from Paul di Resta, was sixteenth, right behind d’Ambrosio. Further down the order were both Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne who were in 16th and 17th place respectively.

At the back of the field were the usual suspects, Caterham took 19th and 20th place with Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov, Charles Pic and Timo Glock were 21st and 22nd for Marussia, while Pedro de la Rosa was almost two seconds faster than his Chinese team colleague and took 23rd place for HRT.

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