Lewis Hamilton has ended his run of poor performances during Friday’s practice sessions by finishing quickest in FP1 at Monza this morning.
The British driver posted a fastest time of 1:25.565 to finish just a fraction ahead of home favorite Fernando Alonso, with the Ferrari driver trailing by 0.035 seconds. Capping off a good morning for Mercedes was Nico Rosberg in third, who put in some good times on the hard tire late on to move ahead of two-time Italian GP winner Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull driver was forced to settle for fourth come the checkered flag.
McLaren showed signs of a resurgence by finishing in sixth and seventh with Sergio Perez leading Jenson Button, whilst Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez also impressed to end up ninth and eleventh respectively. Sauber have gambled on using the passive DRS device on their car this weekend, despite the low downforce nature of Monza appearing to eradicate any advantage that could be gained by using it.
James Calado, Heikki Kovalainen and Rodolfo Gonzalez all enjoyed run-outs as part of their reserve driver duties on Friday morning. Calado put in a very strong performance, finishing seventeenth and ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who suffered a gearbox failure late on. Kovalainen and Gonzalez could not match the pace of their colleagues, with the 1.6 second gap between Chilton and Gonzalez being cause for concern at Marussia.
The session ended with a strange incident for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso was attempting a practice start at the end of the pit-lane and teammate Felipe Massa looked to pass him with a few seconds remaining. However, the red light came on, thus closing the pit lane and forcing the Brazilian driver to hit the brakes and take evasive action. Although Alonso managed to continue, Massa was forced to leave his Ferrari at the end of the pit lane and walk back on foot.
Mercedes will be pleased to have begun the weekend in such impressive fashion, but with the soft tire running yet to take place, it is hard to tell just whether or not Hamilton will be able to secure his fifth consecutive pole position at Monza on Saturday.
Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.
Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.
However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.
Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.
This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.
“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.
“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.
“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.
“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”
Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has heaped praise upon Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, supporting his decision to ignore team orders during last month’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Verstappen only turned 18 on Wednesday, but has already made a big impression on the F1 world during his first 14 races with his aggressive driving style and mature approach to racing.
In Singapore, Verstappen was told by Toro Rosso to let faster teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. go past, but refused to give up his position and eventually beat the Spaniard to finish eighth.
Writing in his Hermes blog, Hakkinen backed Verstappen’s decision to stay ahead and praised the Dutchman for his performances so far this season.
“A driver must be alert and keep track of what is happening around him at all times,” Hakkinen wrote. “That’s what Verstappen is. He does not simply let anyone pass if it’s not for the world championship, but only a few championship points.
“Verstappen is 18 years old, but the guy’s already a real pro. Young people are developing incredibly fast nowadays, and by that I don’t mean just drivers.”
Despite having more than half a season of F1 racing under his belt, Verstappen only gained his road driver’s license on his 18th birthday, having previously been under the age limit to drive a regular car in public.