Lewis Hamilton continued his current domination of Formula One by topping the times ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in Friday’s second free practice ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
The newly-blond defending two-time world champion, in his 50th Grand Prix for Mercedes, clocked a best lap in 1min 24.27sec on a warm, if overcast, afternoon at the high-speed Autodromo Nazional where Mercedes’ new engines reigned supreme.
Hamilton’s best time was 0.021sec faster than that of his German partner, who became a father for the first time last weekend and who lies 28 points adrift in the drivers’ title race.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari, unable to close a gap of 0.759sec on the two ‘silver arrows’ much to the disappointment of the tifosi gathered within the old royal park where the circuit, dubbed by some as ‘the temple of speed’, plays host to their home event.
Behind Vettel, two more Mercedes-powered cars filled the fourth and fifth places with Mexican Sergio Perez narrowly outpacing his Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was sixth in the second Ferrari.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean was seventh ahead of his Lotus team-mate Pastor Maldonado and the two Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Brazilian Felipe Massa.
The session was without serious incidents, but Dutch teenager Max Verstappen survived one frightening incident when he had a ‘moment’ and recovered control of his car at high speed.
Briton Jenson Button’s car had a water leak as he struggled to 19th place for McLaren Honda ahead of the equally desultory Russian Daniil Kvyat whose Red Bull, fitted with an ‘old’ Renault engine, left him relatively powerless and in 20th.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was, by contrast, in good form as he climbed to 16th in the second McLaren while Australian Daniel Ricciardo was 13th in the other Red Bull car. For both teams, and their drivers, however, it was a day without much joy.