Adrian Sutil was the surprise name at the top of the timesheets as Force India threatened another shock result in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
A fortnight after Giancarlo Fisichella claimed pole and finished second in Belgium, breaking the team’s points duck in Formula One, Sutil underlined their improvement.
The German posted the fastest lap of the day in the afternoon 90-minute session around Monza, narrowly edging out Lewis Hamilton, who was quickest in the morning, by 0.012 seconds.
Sutil recorded a time of one minute 23.924 seconds for the 5.793 kilometre track, finishing 0.239secs ahead of another shock name in Renault’s Romain Grosjean.
The French marque, currently embroiled in scandal over the ’crash-gate’ furore, finished second and third in the afternoon session, with double world champion Fernando Alonso nearly 0.4secs adrift of Sutil.
Renault’s improvement is due to the fact they have re-installed KERS on their cars for this race, the system providing a burst of power at the touch of a button.
McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, who had finished second to Hamilton earlier in the day, was fourth in the afternoon, followed by the BMW Sauber of Robert Kubica and Toyota’s Timo Glock.
Glock had finished bottom in the morning, with the German involved in the only major incident of the day, spinning prior to bouncing heavily over the newly re-moulded and far higher kerbs that now dominate the three chicanes around the track.
Nick Heidfeld was seventh for a resurgent BMW Sauber, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen eighth, followed by the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi.
Hamilton was forced to settle for 11th, almost a second slower than his morning run and evidently running a different spec.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, on his debut for Force India after replacing Fisichella, was 12th, just under a second behind team-mate Sutil.
If the top of the order was a surprise, so was the bottom five as Rubens Barrichello was 16th for Brawn GP, followed by Nico Rosberg in his Williams and Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull.
Championship leader Jenson Button was a lowly 19th in his Brawn, 1.5secs behind Sutil and 0.7secs slower than in the morning as he, too, tested out different options.
As for the rear of the field, that was brought up by Fisichella on his first drive for Ferrari, but, like Hamilton and Button, his time of 1:25.543 was appreciably slower than his best lap earlier in the day.