sport

Rosberg goes fastest in Monza

Nico Rosberg finished Friday at Monza fractionally ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton after the Briton was once again forced to battle unreliability problems.

Hamilton lost the opening hour of the session due to what Mercedes described as "electronic problems" which meant the team were unable to start his W05.

After changing the sensors on the car, Hamilton was sent out for a quick familiarisation run before bolting on the medium tyres for his qualifying simulation and immediately lighting up the timing screens.

Perhaps fired up by the delay, the 2008 World Champion could even have finished the session fastest had he not caught traffic in the form of Marcus Ericsson and Jean-Eric Vergne at the Ascari chicane on his two flying laps, having twice been faster through the opening two sectors.

"They couldn't start the car, but the guys did a great job to get my back out so I got a few laps at least," Lewis Hamilton told Sky Sports News HQ.

"I feel good, I felt really good after the first session, I made a small change just now and whilst I didn't have very many laps the car feels great and obviously we have a competitive car this weekend and we have a good chance tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow I get the full session.

"It is quite an important session to put it on pole, it is quite a difficult circuit to overtake here so I am trying to get back out in front as I haven't had a good qualifying for seven or eight races so hopefully I can rectify that.

A resurgent Ferrari, willed on by the passionate Tifosi crowd, took the fight to Mercedes with Kimi Raikkonen just a tenth shy of Rosberg. It has been a difficult return to the Scuderia for the Finn in 2014, but having outpaced Fernando Alonso once again, perhaps Raikkonen is finally getting the handling of the F14 T to his liking.

Getting heat into the conservative Pirelli tyres continued to be an issue for the drivers during the session leading to some experimenting a flying lap, slow lap, flying lap sequence to get the tyres into the correct operating window.

That is a tactic employed in GP2 where tyre blankets are banned and could make for an interesting qualifying session on Saturday as the drivers battle for track position over a three-lap sequence rather than the normal single-flyer.

The durability of both tyres is likely to lead to a one-stop race with drop off not appearing an issue during the long runs. On 17 lap old tyres Felipe Massa was actually going a tenth faster 11 laps into his run on the hard tyre than he had been at the start, a trait that was also demonstrated on the medium tyre by Daniil Kvyat who completed 18 laps on the softer rubber without showing any signs of significant drop off.

Given that the time lost in the pits is high a Monza due to the speed with which the cars blast past the garages on the main straight, perhaps the teams will welcome the harder rubber on Sunday that thus far has drawn criticism in some quarters.

For Lotus, though, getting heat into their tyres was the least of their worries as both cars struggled for not only braking stability, but also cornering grip leading to both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado making regular trips to gravel traps and tarmac run-off areas. Indeed such were their woes that Jules Bianchi finished the session quicker than both Lotus cars for Marussia, whilst Max Chilton was three tenths quicker than Grosjean.

Having split the Mercedes cars during the morning running, McLaren c ouldn't carry that form into the afternoon falling not only behind the Ferraris, but also Williams' Valtteri Bottas as Jenson Button finished sixth quickest with Kevin Magnussen in eighth.

Sky F1&'s Mark Hughes suspects that Monza represents McLaren&'s last chance to be semi-competitive for a while and with the future of both drivers uncertain, they will be looking to close the gap of four tenths to Raikkonen overnight.