As has been almost traditional at each and every grand prix this season, Renault's blue-and-yellow colours flew highest in the early morning test session.

At Monza, the regie's three drivers, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Allan McNish, again led the field - as they had done in Hungary three weeks ago - as Michelin seized the early initiative in the much-hyped tyre 'war'. Jaguar proved to be the best of the rest, with Mark Webber and Justin Wilson slotting into fourth and fifth on the French company's rubber, ahead five Bridgestone-shod cars.

A couple of spins apart, it was a problem-free session for Renault, with its three drivers completing more than 124 laps - the equivalent of two race distances. Trulli took his turn to lead the field on this occasion, lapping in 1min 22.83secs in dry and pleasantly warm conditions, while Alonso and McNish followed at a half-second's distance.

"After testing last week, the team came here with a good idea of the set-up we would need, as well as plenty of data on the tyres and, as a consequence, I was able to do more work on chassis set-up than usual," the Scot revealed, "From a personal point of view, I am pleased to be back at Monza, driving on a fast track that I have always liked, and in a chassis that inspires confidence in the driver, allowing us to push to the limit."

Although the team had joined most of its rivals at a three-day test at Monza last week, engineering director Pat Symonds insisted that the two-hours had proved valuable in terms of sorting a few things for the race weekend.

"We had a useful morning because, although we tested here last week, we were not able to complete our programme," he explained, "Our work this morning therefore enabled us to concentrate on the final details. As we would expect after two days of testing last week, the balance of the cars is already close to what we want, but as ever, this afternoon will be the true indicator of our performance."

The session also allowed the team's engine department to verify data on new parts, and confirm that a new cylinder head would be pressed into action in Sunday's race.

Behind the three Anglo-French cars, Webber and Wilson covered almost 90 laps of the Italian circuit and, despite working on different programmes, both expressed satisfaction with the progress made.

The ran through its various tyre choices, as well as checking details such as brake cooling on the heavy braking circuit, and reported no problems with either car, although Webber remarked that the track was more slippery than he had expected, and led to a minor off.

Jos Verstappen managed to repeat his Hungaroring feat of being quicker than the Jordans, and lapped just four-tenths off Wilson's best effort in the course of his 28 laps.

The Dutchman's time was enough to squeeze himself ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella who, in turn, had three-tenths margin over Minardi tester Gianmaria Bruni. The Italian team was the only other outfit to take advantage of the chance to run extra cars in the session, with Jordan reverting to two machines after Ralph Firman's failure to obtain medical clearance for the race.

Zsolt Baumgartner, already scheduled to take part in the test, slotted in alongside Fisichella, as he will all weekend, but there was no chance for the team to field a third car for new F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim, as had been mooted as long ago as the German GP.

Baumgartner took time to settle on the fast Monza layout and was unable to reprise his Hungarian testing form, lapping over a second slower than his team-mate. He was, however, able to record a better lap than the third Minardi, in the hands of race regular Nicolas Kiesa, which brought up the rear, some 4.2secs off the pace after completing just eleven laps.

 

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