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Sebastian Vettel heads Ferrari pair in Monza practice

Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Italian GP second practice

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at Monza

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel stole Ferrari's thunder to set the pace in practice at the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by 0.076 seconds, with the Spaniard's team-mate Felipe Massa in third.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were fourth and fifth and Red Bull's Mark Webber sixth, heightening hopes for a close, competitive race.

Hamilton leads the title race by three points from Webber, with Vettel, Button and Alonso needing to make up ground.

The five leading runners were separated by just 0.371secs. Webber, whose car stopped out on the circuit with 15 minutes remaining following a water leak, was 0.576secs behind his team-mate.

Vettel said: "It will be tight. The gap between cars will be very small.

Vettel happy with Red Bull pace

"We looked quite good today. Ferrari were very quick this afternoon and McLaren were up there all day long, dictating the pace.

"It's looking quite good, so I'm quite happy."

Webber admitted that he was slightly off the pace of his team-mate.

"I've got to find a little bit of pace myself, but at the moment it looks good for us," he said.

Red Bull were expecting this to be a difficult weekend, believing that the track would suit the McLaren car more than theirs.

But a team insider told BBC Sport they had been pleasantly surprised by their competitiveness.

McLaren are expected to be the team to beat but Hamilton and Button did not look as quick in second practice as they had in the first 90-minute session in the morning.

But Alonso said he expected McLaren to be on top in qualifying on Saturday.

The two-time world champion said: "We are happy with the progress today and the job done, but we respect a lot our rivals.

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"We know how strong McLaren will be here. They are probably favourites for pole.

"We know the potential of the Red Bull car - taking nearly all pole positions this year.

"It will be difficult but we are there and we will fight."

The pace of Alonso and Massa will be a boost for Ferrari, who have admitted they need a strong result at their home race to revive the Spaniard's title chances.

He has fallen 41 points behind Hamilton following a non-finish at the Belgian Grand Prix, with only 150 points still available in the remaining six races.

At their home race, the pressure is intense on Ferrari, who two days ago escaped further punishment from governing body the FIA over their apparent use of team orders at the German Grand Prix in July.

Massa managed to rescue a lurid off-track moment at the fast Parabolica corner after setting his best time.

The Brazilian ran off the track at the exit of the bend, where cars are doing more than 150mph, and skidded through the gravel trap.

But he avoided hitting the wall and he steered across the track and back into the pits.

McLaren's Jenson Button

Highlights - Italian GP first practice

Button set the pace in the morning session as he and Hamilton traded fastest times with championship rivals Red Bull.

The world champion, Hamilton and Red Vettel all took turns at the top.

Button was just 0.097 seconds ahead of Vettel, with Hamilton third.

Renault's Robert Kubica and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg were next, ahead of Webber, Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi and Alonso.

In the afternoon, Williams's Rubens Barrichello was seventh ahead of Kubica, the second Williams of Nico Hulkenberg and Rosberg.

Ferrari were not competitive in the first session, when Alonso was 0.850secs off Button's pace. Ferrari said on their Twitter feed that both drivers were "not too happy with the grip".

The teams spent their time on Friday analysing the set-ups they will need at the unique Monza track, the fastest on the F1 calendar.

The teams run their cars here with less aerodynamic downforce than at any other circuit and finding the right balance between straight line speed and cornering is key.

It is made more complicated this year by the presence on many cars of the F-duct aerodynamic device, pioneered by McLaren but since adopted by several other teams.

The device reduces the car's drag on the straights, allowing them either to have fastest straight-line speed for the same cornering pace, or to run more downforce in the corners without a penalty down the straights.

But the device has its own inherent drag, and the balance between running it and not running it is finer at Monza than anywhere else.



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see also
Italian Grand Prix practice results
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Button seeks Monza podium finish
10 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Ecclestone makes team orders hint
10 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix photos
10 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Italian GP practice as it happened
10 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso faces team orders grilling
09 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Ferrari escape further punishment
08 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren confident of Monza form
08 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Webber cautious on Monza chances
08 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso not giving up on title yet
01 Sep 10 |  Formula 1


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