Lewis Hamilton was the fastest man in Practice One, followed by fellow countryman and former teammate Jenson Button who was six tenths behind, and current teammate Rosberg who was eight tenths behind. The first part of the Practice session saw the usual installation laps being completed by the teams, as well as putting in some lap times in the first half hour on their allocated set of tyres for that timeframe.
Force India were doing something rather interesting and running their test and reserve driver Dani Juncadella in the first thirty minutes, before he gave the car back to Sergio Perez who completed the rest of the sixty-minute session. They weren’t the only team running their test/reserve driver in Practice One as Lotus were also giving Charles Pic some milage, with Caterham of course running Roberto Merhi in order for him to clock up the all important kilometres necessary to gain a FIA Super Licence.
Most of the teams were running their lower downforce aero packages with flow-vis paint, to see whether they are gaining them any benefits on the all-important straights around Monza. Ferrari in particular were playing about with the gurney flaps on Kimi Raikkonen’s car, as well as running their cascade element-less front wing. Red Bull were also running less downforce than usual, with Mercedes opting to run a thinner version of their three-point curved rear wing.
Tidbits from the session include an Power Unit failure on Daniel Riccardo’s car, which made him miss 20 minutes or so of the session towards the end. The ICE in his car was due to be changed at the end of the day anyway, so its not that big a deal for him. We also saw a lot of sparks from the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso throughout the session, reminiscent of the ones we saw at Austria when Nico Rosberg was testing those titanium skid blocks, which are set to be introduced next year as part of changes to the Technical Regulations.
Whether or not Ferrari were just running them to see what effects it has on their ride height is perhaps something they were trying to gather data on. Teams are allowed to run bits on their cars that wouldn’t otherwise be permitted in Practice due to it being a “test” session, and with the straights at Monza being long enough to gather any sort of aero data that can be looked at against wind tunnel data, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were doing such a thing.
Elsewhere we saw some interesting figures pop up on the timing screen in the speed trap. We said in our preview that we were expecting speeds of 224mph, and today we saw a top speed of Sergio Perez in the Force India reach 216mph, with everyone else hovering around the 213 – 214mph zone. That could increase come Sunday, which is what we saw in China. Speaking of Force India, they were running a new floor today on Sergio Perez’s car after it was handed back to him by Juncadella, however Perez perhaps didn’t do the team any favours when he went over the Ascari chicane gravel trap towards the end of the session.
Finally there was an interesting comment made by Paddy Lowe after the session regarding Lewis Hamilton’s engine, saying that it was the one that caught fire in Hungary during Qualifying that he was running in todays session. So clearly the team aren’t too concerned about Hamilton going over the allocated limit of five internal combustion engines this year after his race in Spa.
Moving on to Practice Two and we saw Nico Rosberg finish in P1 ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was mostly curtailed in this session with engine problems. No they weren’t related to his internal combustion engine, more the electronics which were stopping the car from firing up. Once the team had changed some of the sensors on the car, they got it back out with thirty minutes of the session to go.
We started to see the long run pace being posted by the drivers in the afternoon session, largely on the Medium tyre which we calculated was around six tenths a lap faster than the Hard, under the track conditions that the session was run at which was at least ten degrees higher than in the morning session. Drivers on the high fuel runs were posting lap times four tenths slower than their best on Mediums that were around eight laps old.
On that basis we’re largely going to see the one-stop strategy being adopted by the teams considering degradation is low. There were some concerns that these compounds are too hard for this weekends race, but it still could produce good racing based on the raw pace of the cars.
Braking seemed to be an issue for some drivers, particularly at turn one where a lot of drivers were caught out with the speed of their cars. Jenson Button had a near miss at the end of the session when he misjudged his braking overtaking Danill Kvyat, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid Adrian Sutil who was coming out the pits. We also saw a flurry of drivers throughout the session get their braking wrong into that corner.
As for the final subject matter, we’re going to talk about track limits. Of course with the new Parabolica resurfacing its naturally been a subject matter people have been discussing. Having seen the drivers take to it in GP2 once there had been some running and the track had time to evolve from its “green” state, there is still somewhat of a challenge there with the tyre marbles being dispersed off the racing line, which means – as we saw with Racing Engineering’s Coletti – if you out-brake yourself you can still go off into the gravel.
Whats also interesting about this weekend is drivers being penalised if they run all four wheels wide on the exit of Ascari. There is a strip of astro turf on the exit of the corner, which we saw makes drivers back out of the throttle. But it will be interesting to see if drivers do run wide and get their times deducted, and in the race where we’ve seen at previous events drivers getting warnings about track limits before penalties.