In P1 Hamilton topped the timesheets, ahead of Alonso, Rosberg and Vettel. Raikkonen was fifth, followed by Perez, Button, Webber, Maldonado and Vergne.
The times were pretty close together as is usual at Monza (as Gary Anderson said) because 70% of the lap is full throttle. In P1 commentary Alan McNish opined that Red Bull and Ferrari should be good around Monza. Di Resta and Anderson also reckoned that Force India should punch above their weight at the circuit.
P2 had Vettel fastest, followed by Webber. Raikkonen and Grosjean, with differing wheelbases, managed to set an identical time. Fifth was Alonso, then Hamilton, Rosberg, Massa, Button and Perez.
Vettel was half a second down the road in P2, but qualifying should be pretty close.
Lap times are about 0.4s faster on the medium compound, but the second lap can be faster than the first because a little bit less grip can increase speed on the many straights. It’s highly likely to be a one stop race, though a two stop is just 6-7s slower, so that’s not out of the question. Last year Perez started on the prime then switched to the option and rose from 12th to 2nd. I think there’s little chance of such a dramatic rise this year (sadly the teams in the midfield aren’t as competitive as they were in 2012) but a smaller improvement is possible, perhaps most likely for Force India.
On the long runs Vettel was about 0.5-1s faster than Alonso, but we don’t know the fuel loads or how much the wick was turned up on the engines (they’ll be slotting fresh ones in for tomorrow, I believe). Unexpectedly, Vettel seemed a bit unhappy, according to a tweet from the delightful Sarah Holt: “Oddly Vettel is not super happy after day one: "I would be lying to you if I said this was a disaster but as I said this was only a Friday."”
Vettel was fastest in P3, some three-tenths or so ahead of Alonso, whose Prancing Horse was galloping a little bit faster than yesterday. Webber and Hamilton were very close behind in third and fourth, followed by Perez, Ricciardo, Massa, Button, Maldonado and Raikkonen.
I suspect that we’ll end up with another Vettel-Hamilton duel for pole, but the battle to reach Q3 should be tight. Grosjean was complaining about lack of grip, and McNish observed that the Force India (which Di Resta crashed, probably due to something breaking) looked unstable. Rosberg suffered a gearbox problem which meant he never got to do qualifying simulation. I still expect he’ll easily make Q3, but it’ll be trickier for him to compete for pole.
There’s a low chance of rain, with a thunderstorm possible after the qualifying session is over. However, forecasts are not infallible, so we may see some rain. In addition, the second or even third lap on medium tyres can be the fastest.
The pole fight seems to be a Vettel-Hamilton duel, and the top 10 betting seemed more interesting to me. I was interested in Grosjean’s lay odds, but 1.75 is too long. Instead, I’ve backed Maldonado to reach Q3 at 3. He was inside the top 10 in both P1 and P3. It’s very close between him and about three others, and I think it’s 50/50 as to whether he’ll make it. I’ve hedged the bet at 1.5.