Nico Rosberg leads way in opening Monza practice
German finishes ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton with Ferrari third and fourth
Nice Rosberg came out on top in the opening practice session ahead of the Italian grand prix. Photograph: Getty
Hamilton, 31, holds a nine-point advantage over Rosberg in the championship race and has won here in each of the previous two seasons.
Last year the British driver, who is just one triumph shy of 50 grand prix victories, topped every practice and qualifying session before sealing an emphatic lights-to-flag win.
But at the so-called Temple of Speed on Friday, Hamilton was slower than Rosberg’s best lap of one minute and 22.959 seconds.
As has largely been the trend this season, Mercedes — Formula One’s all-conquering team who have won all but one race this season — were comfortably faster than the rest of the field. Indeed no other team was within one second of Rosberg.
Force India’s Sergio Perez was fifth fastest ahead of Haas driver Romain Grosjean. Max Verstappen, who insists he will not adapt his racing approach despite courting criticism for his aggressive tactics in Belgium on Sunday, finished ninth in the order.
Jenson Button trialled the Halo — the cockpit protection device which will not be introduced until 2018 at the earliest — for the first time on Friday. The 2009 world champion, who will see his McLaren fate for next season determined this month, was 11th in the order while his team-mate Fernando Alonso posted the 13th best time.
Felipe Massa announced he will retire at the end of the season in an emotional press conference on Thursday, and he was 14th here in practice.