Arthur Pic has set a benchmark for the rest of the grid after running at the top of the timesheets for most of this morning’s free practice session in Monza to claim the best time in warm but overcast conditions from McLaren test driver Stoffel Vandoorne and Series leader Jolyon Palmer.
The Frenchman led the way for much of the session before improving his best time 2 minutes before the chequered flag for a laptime of 1:32.256, somehow finding an extra tenth to double his lead over his closest rivals at a circuit which traditionally sees a tight contest on the timesheets.
Johnny Cecotto, Simon Trummer and Palmer set the early pace as many of the drivers tripped across one or other of the chicanes as they pushed to find the limits of their tyres, but just after the ten minute mark Mitch Evans and then Vandoorne took a turn on the top spot before Pic annexed it 18 minutes into the session, with a time that only he would go on to beat as the clock ticked down to zero.
In a session which saw little in the way of retirement, Stefano Coletti tested the new asphalt strip at the Parabolica corner a little too far, spinning to a stop in the gravel, while Haryanto also stopped at the Ascari complex late in the session. Just behind the top three Evans, Coletti, Trummer, Felipe Nasr, Raffaele Marciello, Stéphane Richelmi and Jon Lancaster fill out the top ten, but with 21 drivers within a second of the top spot this afternoon’s qualifying session promises a battle which is tougher than ever.
Monza – Free Practice
Driver Team Laptime Laps
1. Arthur Pic Campos Racing 1:32.256 19
2. Stoffel Vandoorne ART Grand Prix 1:32.434 18
3. Jolyon Palmer DAMS 1:32.535 20
4. Mitch Evans RT RUSSIAN TIME 1:32.545 19
5. Stefano Coletti Racing Engineering 1:32.598 10
6. Simon Trummer Rapax 1:32.651 19
7. Felipe Nasr Carlin 1:32.676 21
8. Raffaele Marciello Racing Engineering 1:32.697 19
9. Stéphane Richelmi DAMS 1:32.712 20
10. Jon Lancaster Hilmer Motorsport 1:32.787 20
11. Johnny Cecotto Trident 1:32.827 20
12. Julian Leal Carlin 1:32.855 18
13. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Rapax 1:32.872 19
14. Rene Binder Arden International 1:32.905 20
15. Marco Sorensen MP Motorsport 1:33.017 17
16. André Negrao Arden International 1:33.078 20
17. Rio Haryanto Caterham Racing 1:33.136 15
18. Daniel De Jong MP Motorsport 1:33.169 18
19 Nathanaël Berthon Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:33.188 16
20. Sergio Canamasas Trident 1:33.214 19
21. Kimiya Sato Campos Racing 1:33.309 19
22. Pierre Gasly Caterham Racing 1:33.520 19
23. Takuya Izawa ART Grand Prix 1:33.521 20
24. Artem Markelov RT RUSSIAN TIME 1:33.641 16
25. Sergio Campana Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:33.832 20
26. Daniel Abt Hilmer Motorsport 1:34.281 20