Practice: Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren all in contention in Monza on Friday
McLaren may be the hot favourites for victory this weekend in Monza, but Red Bull Racing go into day 2 here as the fastest team in the pitlane after the championship challenging team set the fastest time in second practice this afternoon. Sebastian Vettel set a time of 1m22.839s to beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by a mere seven hundredths of a second, posting the quickest time of the weekend in the process.
After a straightforward first practice session this morning, this afternoon saw numerous incidents and accidents, with plenty of off-course excursions and technical problems, the first coming just minutes into the session when Michael Schumacher tripped through the gravel at the famous Parabolica corner. Sebastien Buemi and Felipe Massa followed the German through the gravel later in the session, although all survived largely unscathed.
Having escaped Wednesday's team orders hearing without any major penalty, Ferrari enjoyed a competitive afternoon of action with Fernando Alonso (1m22.915s) posting the second-quickest time, followed by team-mate Felipe Massa (1m23.061s) in third. They just about snuck into the top ten this morning, but have now shown they are well in contention for the win this weekend.
Also in contention for victory are McLaren, with Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton again clocking impressive laptimes. Hamilton, running with a low downforce set-up, stopped the clock at 1m23.154s, while team-mate Button, running a higher setting of downforce to take full advantage of the F-duct, set a time of 1m23.210s to go fifth. There will be difficult discussions between now and tomorrow morning within the team as they decide on which set-up direction to follow.
The second Red Bull of Mark Webber ended his session on the grass after being forced to stop his car when a water pressure problem emerged half-way around the lap. The problem hit with 20 minutes remaining in the session, robbing the Australian of valuable set-up and data laps. Others to suffer mechanical woes were Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari and Bruno Senna, the Brazilian having stopped twice on-track with suspected fuel system problems.
The action in Monza resumes tomorrow morning with the final practice session of the weekend ahead of Saturday afternoon's qualifying session.