Italian GP - Second practice
QUICKEST IN MONZA: Lewis Hamilton hopes to put the nightmare Belgian GP behind him as he takes on rivals at the Italian Grand Prix.
MONZA, Italy - Lewis Hamilton shut out the swirl of paddock speculation about his Formula 1 future and focused on lapping fastest in practice for the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton led a McLaren one-two at the top of the timesheets with a best lap of 1min25.290 in brilliant sunshine while Jenson Button, winner in Belgium, was 0.038 slower.
Hamilton has been the main talking point of the weekend with the rumour mill suggesting he could leave McLaren, who have won the last two races, to switch to Mercedes in place of Michael Schumacher.
He said: "Of course every now and then it pops into your mind but then you have to remember you have to keep your eye on the ball, and that's the most important thing at the moment.
"I'm just trying to focus on the weekend. Everyone is asking the question, but I'm just trying to remain focused on the job at hand at the moment.
"It's a beautiful circuit, really absolutely stunning to drive. Obviously great weather and incredibly high speed and when you get the flow right it's just such a great feeling."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, current championship leader, was third but the afternoon ended with worried faces after he slowed on track and cruised back to the pitlane with an apparent gearbox problem.
The team quickly calmed fears of a grid penalty for a gearbox change, saying Alonso was using an old one under Friday regulations.
Alonso had also slowed and parked up in the morning session led by former Ferrari favourite Schumacher, hailed by the partisan crowd as one of their all-time idols and showing he still also had plenty of pace in his Mercedes.
With the Monza grandstand festooned with banners hailing both Shumacher and Alonso in equal measure, Schumacher had lapped the fastest circuit on the calendar in 1min25.422.
"Michael we love you" and "Michael, we will always be with you" were among the banners, some in Italian, testifying to the continuing adoration of a driver who won five of his seven championships with Ferrari.
Schumacher was slowed in the afternoon with problems with the DRS rear wing system but the gearbox that had given him trouble in Spa ran without incident.
Button, runner-up at Monza for the past three seasons, was also second fastest in that morning session.
Schumacher said: "It's always nice to be back in Monza as I am still so warmly welcomed by all the tifosi."
Alonso, who has a 24-point advantage over Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel after 12 of the 20 races, was fourth in the morning.
Vettel was 11th and 13th, with Australian team mate Mark Webber ninth and 11th respectively.
Vettel said: "I think overall we are not as quick as we would like to be, so there's still work to do. I think we are more competitive in race trim but we aren't where we want to be in terms of true pace.
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, who has a 10-place penalty for the final European race of the season, stopped on track with an hydraulic problem in the morning.
Jerome D'Ambrosio, who raced for tail-enders Virgin (Marussia) in 2011, was 15th and 12th fastest respectively on his first day in the Lotus as stand-in for banned Frenchman Romain Grosjean.
Grosjean was suspended for causing a pile-up at the start in Spa that ended the race for Alonso and Hamilton.
Ma Qing Hua tested for HRT as the first Chinese driver to take part in a F1 Grand Prix weekend, replacing Indian Narain Karthikeyan for the first session. He was slowest of all with a time of 1min31.239.
"It was an extraordinary experience and I'm happy with my performance," he said. "I accomplished all the targets we set ourselves.
"It was an important step for me but also for motorsport in China since it's a very young sport there but with a great potential."
2012 Italian Grand Prix: Second pratice times
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min25.290
2 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min25.328
3 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min25.348
4 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min25.430
5 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min25.446
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min25.504
7 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min25.546
8 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min25.547
9 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min26.068
10 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min26.094
11 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min26.104
12 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Belgium) Lotus 1min26.157
13 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min26.394
14 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min26.404
15 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min26.724
16 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min26.730
17 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min26.783
18 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min26.841
19 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min26.864
20 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min27.222
21 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min27.944
22 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min27.968
23 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min28.575
24 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min28.779
First practice times:
1 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min25.422
2 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min25.723s
3 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min25.762s
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min25.800s
5 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min25.861s
6 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min25.944s
7 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min26.046s
8 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min26.323s
9 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min26.390s
10 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min26.504s
11 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min26.508s
12 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min26.518s
13 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min26.641s
14 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min26.746s
15 Jerome d'Ambrosio (Belgium) Lotus 1min27.180s
16 Jules Bianchi (France) Force India 1min27.192s
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min27.373s
18 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min27.789s
19 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min27.855s
20 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min28.578s
21 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min28.751s
22 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min29.207s
23 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min29.331s
24 Ma Qinghua (China) HRT 1min31.239s
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