Hamilton geared up for Monza cauldron
jenson button said even before he got here that he expects tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix to be a "spectacular" race, and the closeness of the lap times after the second qualifying session yesterday afternoon, run in glorious sunshine, suggests that he will be proved right.
Lewis Hamilton set the overall fastest time of the day in the morning session, though Sebastian Vettel edged him out by 0.036 seconds in the afternoon.
But just half a second separated the first seven drivers as Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Button gave chase. Behind them, seven-tenths of a second split the next seven.
Racing at Monza, the sport's cathedral of speed, poses special challenges not just because of the high straight-line speeds around 330kmph, but also because of the heavy braking demands that then result and the unique atmosphere created by the notorious fans, the zealous 'tifosi'.
And two zones in which drivers who are following another can activate their DRS rear wings to cut drag and boost straight-line speed in the race -- one on the main straight before the first corner, the other before the Ascari corner which leads on to the fast back straight -- could recreate the sort of pass and repass slipstreaming duels that were such a dramatic feature of the Italian circuit up to 1971, after which it became ruined by chicanes that were incorporated to reduce lap speeds of 243kmph.
Vettel said he was happy with the speed of his Red Bull on a circuit that is not supposed to suit it as much as the McLarens and Ferraris.
"It was an interesting day on a track that usually doesn't suit us, but today I think we were pretty happy," he said.
"It's difficult to judge because Friday is always a bit of a mess here with traffic so hard to judge. But the car felt good and we have had no problems." The world champion, nevertheless, expects McLaren to set the pace, and nobody managed to beat the one minute 23.865sec lap that Hamilton set in the morning.
"We spent the day working on wing set-ups -- it looked like some teams may have been running lower downforce than us -- but once we used DRS we were looking pretty good," Hamilton said.
"On heavier fuel, I think we're slightly stronger than the Ferraris.
"We'll make some small changes overnight, but I think we can challenge the Red Bulls this weekend. It's going to be a hard race." (© Independent News Service)