A steady rather than spectacular first practice session ahead of the Italian Grand Prix saw Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton rise to the top of the leaderboard, narrowly edging out Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton completed the fastest lap with 35 minutes of the session remaining. His time of 1:25.565 displaced that of Alonso, who had delighted the partisan Friday crowd a few minutes earlier by moving into P1 with a time of 1:25.863. The final half hour of the session did not see any improvement, as many drivers concentrated on longer runs.
When the chequered flag appeared, Hamilton and Alonso were narrowly ahead of Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing. Kimi Räikkönen for Lotus was fifth fastest, with McLaren’s Sergio Pérez and Jenson Button sixth and seventh as the team celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. Mark Webber was eighth in the second Red Bull, ahead of Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out the top ten at Toro Rosso’s home race.
The session began slowly. After installation laps, the first half hour was relatively quiet, with the championship contenders content to let others clean the circuit. With 30 minutes of the session completed, only Marussia’s Max Chilton and Rodolfo González, plus the McLarens had set times, Pérez leading the way with 1:26.497.
Button excited mild interest in the opening exchanges, appearing to suffer mechanical difficulties with his DRS. Officially he was recorded as being under investigation for unauthorised use of the system, though from the work going on around the back of his McLaren in the garage, it was apparent the wing was sticking.
More cars took to the track shortly after the half hour mark, most notably that of Drivers’ Championship leader and Belgian Grand Prix winner Vettel. The Red Bull Racing driver took a couple of laps to get up to speed and then went to the head of the order, holding the lead with 1:25.914 until he was displaced by Alonso.
Many drivers used the run-off areas around the chicanes during the session, experimenting with braking points and suspension settings, but no-one suffered noticeable damage. The only car to retire from running was the Sauber of Nico Hülkenberg who coasted back to the garage, apparently unable to select a gear.
Italian Grand Prix 2013 – Free Practice 1
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:25.565
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:25.600 +0.035
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:25.704 +0.139
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:25.753 +0.188
5. Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:25.941 +0.376
6. Sergio Pérez McLaren 1:26.007 +0.442
7. Jenson Button McLaren 1:26.035 +470
8. Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:26.103 +0.538
9. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:26.149 +0.584
10. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:26.155 +0.590
11. Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber 1:26.194 +0.629
12. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:26.295 +0.730
13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:26.387 +0.822
14. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.449 +0.884
15. Paul di Resta Force India 1:26.594 +1.029
16. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:26.802 +1.237
17. James Calado Force India 1:27.041 +1.476
18. Nico Hülkenberg Sauber 1:27.224 +1.659
19. Charles Pic Caterham 1:27.818 +2.253
20. Max Chilton Marussia 1:27.869 +2.304
21. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:28.192 +2.627
22. Rodolfo GonzálezMarussia 1:29.526 +3.961