Formula One team Force India had two very impressive practice sessions in the Italian Grand Prix here on Friday as its drivers — Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez — finished fourth and fifth fastest, respectively, and then traded their positions in the second practice.
It was another Mercedes one-two finish in Friday afternoon’s second practice here at the Monza circuit, but Lewis Hamilton’s and Nico Rosberg’s advantage over their rivals was much smaller than in the first, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel trailing the silver cars by only 0.75seconds (s), compared to 1.5s in the morning.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth for Ferrari, while Lotus look set for another strong weekend, with Romain Grosjean seventh and Pastor Maldonado eighth.
The Williams cars of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa completed the top ten in what was a closely fought 90-minute session, punctuated by minor off-track moments.
The unluckiest man of the session was Jenson Button, the former champion restricted to just three laps courtesy of the technical problems on his McLaren.
After the first practice, however, there was frustration on the faces of Ferrari fans as Sebastian Vettel, who finished practice in third place, was over 1.5 seconds behind the leading Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
There were a number of spins and offs as drivers tested the limits, but the only red flag came midway through the 90 minutes when Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz beached his car in the gravel after a spin at Parabolica.
Hamilton, the world championship points leader, was quick from the word go, and ended as the only driver to dip beneath 1 minute and 24.670 seconds.
Nico Rosberg was left trailing by 0.463 seconds with one minute and 25.133 seconds, but was still in a separate class as the Silver Arrows dominated.
As expected, McLaren struggled on a circuit that demands maximum power and straight-line speed. Fernando Alonso was only 17th on one minute and 28.023 seconds, and Jenson Button 18th on one minute and 28.423 seconds.