Having allowed McLaren to grab the headlines in testing at Monza, Ferrari assumed authority at the head of the first free practice timesheets as the Italian Grand Prix weekend got underway.

Kimi Raikkonen was the Italian team's figurehead with a lap of 1min 22.446secs, but with just over three tenths covering a top four that also included Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, things look close yet again.

Nonetheless, Raikkonen and Massa were the front runners for the majority of the session, completed under blue skies and a warm morning temperature, sending out the first warning signal that their relatively lacklustre pace in practice was merely sandbagging.

Hamilton was third fastest, just three hundredths of a second behind Massa, but rather alarmingly had several off-track excursions as he attempted to negotiate Monza's fearsome chicanes.

Monza test pace setter Fernando Alonso meanwhile was over three tenths adrift in fourth position, but the Spaniard only completed 12 laps after spending much of the session in the pit lane after complaining of a misfire whilst on his installation lap.

Of more concern for their rivals though will be the huge one second chasm between Raikkonen in first and Nico Rosberg in fifth, the German even then only managing to get the gap down in the final minutes of the session.

Nonetheless, there was a surprise appearance up at the front for Honda as Jenson Button hauled his unloved RA107 chassis up to an impressive sixth fastest, ahead of both Renaults and BMWs and well ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello in 12th.

Indeed, it was enough to displace home favourite Giancarlo Fisichella, who had occupied the role of 'best of the rest' for much of the session, but he and Renault will be encouraged to have outpaced the BMW's.

They finished the session eighth and ninth, last year's podium sitter Robert Kubica ahead of Nick Heidfeld, although with the latter being the last to set a time because BMW thought conducting much mileage in the morning having tested there last week was pointless, more is expected in the afternoon.

Jarno Trulli rounded out the top ten having tied with Alex Wurz on laps completed, the duo managing a healthy 29 laps. Heikki Kovalainen was 11th fastest after slipping down the order as the session progressed, with Barrichello putting in a late charge to jump from 19th to 12th.

Takuma Sato was 13th fastest in the best of the Aguris, placing him ahead of both Red Bulls, who occupied 14th and 18th with Mark Webber and David Coulthard, and the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher in 15th.

Wurz was 16th fastest ahead of Anthony Davidson in the second Aguri, while Adrian Sutil gave Spyker something to be encouraged about by placing his B-specification car 18th, just behind Coulthard in front, ahead of both Toro Rossos and just 2.6secs off the front runners now.

Indeed, even Sakon Yamamoto was able to beat one of the Toro Rossos, that of Vitantonio Liuzzi who was 22nd and last.

To view the full first free practice times for the Italian Grand Prix click here

 

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