Roldan Rodriguez threw down a gauntlet to the rest of the GP2 Series field by claiming the fastest time in Friday morning's free practice session at Monza, leading the way from Lucas di Grassi and Javier Villa.

The mercurial Spaniard gave the beleaguered Piquet family some good news as he led the running for almost the entire session in the best of the Piquet GP entries, with his best lap of 1min 30.607secs set only six minutes into the half-hour session. However, despite the close competition exhibited by most of the GP2 field this season, the mark proved to be untouchable by the remainder of the field, which was reduced in number by the absence of both Durango cars following Stefano Coletti being adjudged unable to take part as a result of the injuries he picked up in his feature race crash at Spa.

Most of the field were able to stay out of trouble ahead of Friday afternoon's qualifying session, although the fabled Parabolica claimed a few scalps, with Alvaro Parente and Pastor Maldonado both running into the tyre wall and stopping, while Alberto Valerio escaped serious damage after glancing the barrier.

Lucas di Grassi, set to miss out on another title shot, was second fastest, just 0.126secs off the pace, while Javier Villa and champion-elect Nico Hulkenberg - who can clinch the title by maintaining his 28-point lead over Vitaly Petrov this weekend - were next up, with the Russian rounding out the top five.

Diego Nunes, iSport team-mate Giedo van der Garde, Maldonado, Edoardo Mortara and Luca Filippi completed the top ten, all within a second of the fastest time, while Andreas Zuber was twelfth fastest on Coloni's return to the fray. Newcomer Johnny Cecotto Jr, who replaces Franck Perera in the second DPR entry, made a solid start to his debut, clocking the 21st fastest lap, albeit 2.3secs shy of Rodriguez.