Sep 7 2012
Lewis Hamilton put to one side speculation surrounding his future by posting the quickest time in practice ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.
With rumours rife of Hamilton potentially switching to Mercedes from next year, team principal Martin Whitmarsh has insisted the 27-year-old was fully focused on this weekend's race around Monza.
With a desire to get his title challenge back on track after becoming embroiled in a four-car pile-up at the first corner of the Belgian Grand Prix five days ago, Hamilton could not have wished for a better start to his weekend. The 27-year-old spearheaded a McLaren one-two, with Jenson Button again second on the timesheet.
The 32-year-old finished just 0.038secs adrift, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in close attendance on his team's home turf as he was 0.058secs down on Hamilton.
Like the Briton, championship leader Alonso was also involved in the La Source smash sparked by Lotus' Romain Grosjean for which he is banned from this race, the first driver to receive such a punishment in F1 for 18 years.
Alonso's lead in the standings has been whittled down to just 24 points by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, but with the Milton Keynes-based team again appearing to struggle for initial pace. Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber were 11th and 13th, 0.814secs and 1.104secs behind Hamilton, sandwiching Grosjean's replacement in Jerome D'Ambrosio.
Competing in the Lotus for the first time this season, and in an F1 car since being dropped by Virgin Racing - now Marussia - at the end of last year, the Belgian produced a credible display.
D'Ambrosio found himself 0.867secs behind Hamilton, but more comparatively was just 0.653secs off of more illustrious team-mate Kimi Raikkonen who was sixth quickest. Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fourth behind his own team-mate in Alonso, with Nico Rosberg fifth for Mercedes.
Force India pair Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth, with the top eight covered by a fraction over a quarter of a second such was the tight-knit nature of the 90-minute session. Sauber's Sergio Perez was then over half a second adrift in ninth ahead of Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes, the 43-year-old rounding out the top 10, 0.8secs down.
As per usual, HRT pair Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan propped up the standings over three seconds down. In first practice, Karthikeyan had given way to Ma Qing Hua, the 26-year-old becoming the first driver from China to take part in a F1 weekend.