Current championship leader Lewis Hamilton set the pace at Monza on Tuesday, as the teams descended on the track to complete their preparations for the Italian Grand Prix, which takes place in less than two weeks time.

The Brit completed 53 laps in total in his McLaren-Mercedes MP4-22, his best effort a 1 minute 24.112 seconds, around a tenth up on Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who was 'best of the rest'.

Although Lewis' programme was interrupted in the morning due to a CV joint failure, he returned to the track soon after and spent most of the day working on various aerodynamic upgrades, as well as looking at tyre evaluations, as Monza is traditionally tough on durability.

A shower towards the end of the day saw him switch to the wet Bridgestone tyres, prior to the session being ended prematurely due to the rain. This may now mean the test is extended to four days - especially as more rain is forecast for day 2.

Hamilton will now run in the morning on Wednesday, before his team-mate, Fernando Alonso takes over driving duties from lunchtime.

Raikkonen meanwhile managed 60 laps, his best a 1m 24.258s. The Finn concentrated on defining the set-up for the F2007 and on the development of aerodynamic solutions aimed specifically at this track, which is now really the only low downforce circuit on the schedule.

BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld was next up in third, just two hundredths or so off Raikkonen. He was testing a low downforce aero package consisting of a new front and rear wing as well as modified bodywork.

"Nick started the day working out a baseline set-up," explained a statement from the Swiss-based outfit. "In the afternoon he made various aerodynamic comparisons which enabled the engineers to gather specific data. He will now continue driving tomorrow.

"A final decision on the programme will be made in the morning, because the weather forecast is predicting rain."

Of the rest, Jarno Trulli was fourth for Toyota, four tenths off Hamilton and around three tenths of Raikkonen and Heidfeld. Despite a few electronic issues in the morning the Italian managed 61 laps and was pretty pleased with his day overall.

"The car has quite a 'light' feel at Monza because you run with the bare minimum of aerodynamic downforce because so much of the track is flat-out. In general we got through a decent amount of work on the set-up today before the rain came at the end of the day," he noted.

"We worked on the tyres and brakes and I am happy with the progress. The second chicane now has a tarmac surface instead of gravel and it is good to see that - a definite step forward."

Toyota test team manager, Gerd Pfeiffer also felt that they had had a good first day: "We have a busy programme here at Monza, where the car runs in a substantially different configuration from the other circuits on the F1 schedule," he continued.

"We made a decent start to the test with no significant hold-ups and strong reliability, with just some rain at the end of the day bringing us to a halt around 20 minutes before we planned.

"We have collected a lot of data which we can analyse this evening before continuing with Jarno in the car again tomorrow before Ralf [Schumacher] takes over on Thursday."

Williams tester, Kazuki Nakajimi rounded out the top five, on a low 1m 25s lap. He notched up 98 tours, the most of any one runner.

"At a very hot and humid Monza circuit, Kazuki opened our three day's in Italy with evaluation work on the Monza aero package," explained Williams test team manager, Dickie Stanford, when asked about what the Grove-based squad were up to.

"We ran through day one's planned test programme with no problems at all. In fact, it's probably been one of the smoothest and efficient sessions we've had so far this year, with Kazuki completing the most number of laps of the session.

"Alex [Wurz] will be driving tomorrow so we will spend this evening setting the car up for him."

Further down the order, Sebastian Vettel was sixth for Toro Rosso and although he has done two grand's prix with the team, this was actually his first test with the STR02.

The main item on the agenda, like all the other teams, was aerodynamics, specifically the low downforce package required for this high-speed track. In addition, he also looked at brakes and carried out general set-up work. He managed 63 laps in total and will also run on day 2.

After Vettel, Nelson Piquet Jr ended proceeding in seventh, while Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber were eighth and ninth respectively, all three split by less than one tenth of a second.

Despite an electrical failure in the afternoon, Mark did 64 laps, focusing on aero, both general and Monza-specific. He tried both types of Bridgestone dry weather tyres, even though this wasn't on the original programme.

Super Aguri's James Rossiter brought up the rear, his best a 1m 25.548s. He spent the morning evaluating the aero package for the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix and completed a programme of set-up work and race starts in the afternoon.

Testing now continues on Wednesday.

Testing times (28 August) - Monza:

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1min 24.112secs53 laps
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 24.258secs 60 laps
3. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1min 24.277secs 76 laps
4. Jarno Trulli Toyota-Toyota 1min 24.523secs 61 laps
5. Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1min 25.052secs 98 laps
6. Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1min 25.106secs 63 laps
7. Nelson Piquet Jr Renault-Renault 1min 25.360secs 94 laps
8. Rubens Barrichello Honda-Honda 1min 25.377secs 85 laps
9. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1min 25.427secs 64 laps
10. James Rossiter Super Aguri-Honda 1min 25.548secs 69 laps

all times unofficial - courtesy McLaren

Track/weather conditions: Dry for the majority of the day, with showers towards the end of running: Track temperature, 40.1?C / Ambient temperature, 30.5?C.

Comparative lap times:

Italian GP 2006:

Pole position: Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes 1min 21.484secsFastest lap: Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes 1min 22.559secs

 

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