Sebastian Vettel put a cat among the pigeons yesterday by setting the fastest time at Monza in a Red Bull that is not supposed to be suited to such a low downforce circuit.
Arguably one of the title contenders with the most to prove after recent accusations that the pressures of the battle have opened cracks that saw him, by his own admission, "fall sleep" behind the safety car in Hungary and then crash into Jenson Button in Belgium, the 23-year-old German beat the Ferraris by fractions of a second.
Fourth and fifth fastest times came from the McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Button, who had set the pace in the morning.
"We had two good practice sessions. This morning, in P1, we ran with the higher downforce package, and the car felt good, but it wasn't as fast along the straights as we've experienced in the past," Hamilton said. "During P2, I was using a different downforce package to Jenson – running with a lower-downforce rear wing and without the F-duct – so we need to go through all the data tonight to decide which works best. Both were quick, so we're not in a bad position. The two different packages felt fairly similar – one is slower down the straights but quicker through the corners, and the other is quicker down the straights but slower through the corners – and they pretty much balance themselves out over a lap."
The race marks the 40th anniversary of the death here in 1970 of the Austrian hero Jochen Rindt, who subsequently became the sport's only posthumous world champion.