Italian GP - First practice
TIME FOR A GRAND PRIX VICTORY? Michael Schumacher set the fastest time in the first practice session at Monza. Could Italy be the circuit where the F1 veteran earns his first GP win since returning to the sport?
Michael Schumacher rolled back the years and showed his enduring pace with the fastest time for Mercedes in the first practice for Ferrari's home Italian Grand Prix.
With the Monza grandstand festooned with banners hailing both the F1 veteran and Ferrari's current idol Fernando Alonso, Schumacher blasted around the fastest circuit on the calendar with a best lap of 1 minute 25.422.
McLaren's Jenson Button, winner in Belgium last weekend and ruunner-up at Monza for the past three seasons, was second fastest with Schumacher's team mate Nico Rosberg third.
'MICHAEL WE LOVE YOU'
Schumacher's performance came with the Formula One paddock swept by speculation about his future and linking Button's team mate Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes for 2013.
"Michael we love you" and "Michael, we will always be with you" were among the banners, some in Italian, testifying to his continuing adoration of a driver who won five of his seven championships with Ferrari.
Alonso, the championship leader with a 24 point advantage over red Bull's Sebastian Vettel after 12 of the 20 races, was fourth on the timesheets but pulled up with a suspected engine problem six minutes before the end of the session.
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, who has a 10-place penalty for the race, also stopped on track in the closing minutes.
Jerome D'Ambrosio, who raced for Virgin in 2011, was 15th fastest on his first day in the Lotus as stand-in for banned driver Romain Grosjean and set a lap time of 1min27.180 compared to team mate Kimi Raikkonen's 1min26.046.
Ma Qing-Hua tested for HRT as the first Chinese driver to take part in a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend. He was slowest of all with a time of 1min31.239.
2012 Italian Grand Prix - 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
Stay with Wheels24 for the Italian Grand Prix weekend!