Lewis Hamilton pips Nico Rosberg in Italian GP practice

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Monza
Hamilton shades Rosberg in second practice
Italian Grand Prix on the BBC
Venue: Monza Dates: 4-6 September
Coverage: Highlights on BBC TV, coverage on BBC Radio 5 live, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV. Full details here

Lewis Hamilton pipped team-mate Nico Rosberg to the fastest time in second practice at the Italian Grand Prix as Mercedes left their rivals trailing.

The world champion beat Rosberg by just 0.021 seconds, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel third fastest but 0.759secs off the pace.

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez performed well during second practice finishing fourth

The day's running suggested an upgraded engine had moved Mercedes even further clear of the field.

The design used up all of the team's permitted in-season engine development.

The new engine is available only to the factory team. Mercedes were not able to give a date for when customer teams Lotus, Force India and Williams would receive it.

Nevertheless, the Mercedes-powered Force India cars of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were fourth and fifth quickest, ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

The Frenchman's team-mate Pastor Maldonado was eighth fastest, ahead of the Mercedes-engined Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton arrived for practice at Monza on his motorbike

Hamilton would take his seventh victory of the 2015 season if he wins at Monza on Sunday (live at 13:00 BST on the BBC Sport website and 5 live, highlights on BBC One at 17:05).

The Briton leads the World Championship by 28 points from team-mate Rosberg.

Echoes of the last race

The list of fastest times suggested a similar competitive picture to the last race in Belgium, where Grosjean took the final podium place and Perez finished fifth.

The events of Spa continued to echo in other ways, too, with tyres a major topic of conversation following the high-speed blowouts suffered by Vettel and Rosberg over the weekend in Belgium.

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Pirelli has imposed stricter tyre usage limits this weekend following the problems, and on Friday the Mercedes drivers, Vettel and Fernando Alonso were called to a meeting also involving F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, Pirelli and leading team bosses.

All four had expressed concerns or criticisms of Pirelli following the Spa failures.

Pirelli insists two changes to the recommendations on tyre usage issued in the space of one day on Thursday were due to extra data and research rather than the criticisms from the drivers.

Problems for McLaren and Red Bull

It will be a difficult weekend for McLaren and Red Bull, both teams using this high-speed track to introduce tactical engine upgrades because they expect to be uncompetitive as a result of the power deficit of their Honda and Renault engines.

Jenson Button
Jenson Button had a disappointing session, managing only three laps

All four of their drivers will be hit with grid penalties as a result of using more than their permitted number of engines.

Hamilton dominates Monza first practice

On top of that, McLaren driver Jenson Button managed only three laps because of reliability problems, and the team went as far as to test on Alonso's car a cooling package aimed at the next race in Singapore, which McLaren expect to be their most competitive race for the remainder of the season.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were 13th and 22nd fastest and Alonso and Button 16th and 21st.

What's so wonderful about Monza?

Like nowhere else, Monza has a claim to be the spiritual home of Formula 1.

It's not the best circuit, and it's not where grand prix racing started. But Italy is the oldest surviving race on the calendar - and Monza the oldest track still in use.

The first Italian Grand Prix there was held in 1922 and through the near-century since Monza has seen it all, from the closest finish on record to the deaths of some of the sport's greatest drivers.

That history hangs heavy in the protected trees of the royal park that houses the Autodromo.

They say you can feel the ghosts of yesteryear's heroes there. That might be stretching it a bit. But as the first morning mists of the Piedmont autumn hang in the air, the foothills of the Alps visible in the distance, there is something undeniably special about the place.

Monza fills you with awe like nowhere else on the motorsport calendar.

Practice results

Italian Grand Prix coverage