Formula 1

Silver Arrows fly high at ‘Temple of Speed’ as Hamilton heads Mercedes one-two

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Lewis Hamilton takes first blood in Italy. Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Lewis Hamilton topped the times in the first practice session of the weekend ahead of the 2017 Italian Grand Prix, four tenths of a second clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, as the German squad once again looked to have the pace on Friday.

The Brit set a time of 1:21.537 to take the top spot on a set of the super-soft tyres, as Mercedes appeared to have the run on Scuderia Ferrari this morning. Whether that advantage will remain come qualifying however, is another question, after the Italian squad surprised last time out in Belgium, when they suddenly found some speed on Saturday.

The first practice session of the weekend began dry, but with rain forecast throughout the Italian Grand Prix weekend, the wet stuff was never far away. Sure enough, some drops began to fall twenty-five minutes in, and although it was only a brief shower initially, further drops came down throughout the session, to stall the action.

Despite the Mercedes of both Hamilton and Bottas looking somewhat cumbersome and a bit of a handful through the chicane on the medium and soft tyres early on, they soon got into their groove on the super-soft compound.

Hamilton really found his feet on the softest of the compounds available this weekend, lowering the bar with every lap, until the rain once again set in, stalling the running with fifteen minutes of the session remaining. The Brit’s time looked extremely tough to match, so it will be interesting to see what Ferrari can do to make up the deficit later in the weekend.

Bottas also looked strong, despite being four tenths down on his team-mate, he was however comfortably ahead of third placed Sebastian Vettel, who was a further seven tenths off the pace of the Finn. Ferrari have not won their home race since 2010, and the German will be hoping to change that statistic on Sunday.

Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was in fourth spot, having set an almost identical time to the German, with Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo just a tenth further back. The Australian was just one hundredth of a second ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen, who had a delayed start to free practice one as the engineers worked on his RB13 in the garage.

Having suffered his sixth retirement of the season last time out in Spain, the Dutchman would have been hoping for a trouble-free weekend here in Italy. However, the 19-year-old will receive a fifteen-place grid penalty for an engine change, whilst team-mate Ricciardo is set for a twenty place grid drop, each driver having received a new ICE, turbo and MGU-H.

Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez was a solid seventh, with team-mate Esteban Ocon one tenth down in eighth. The Silverstone based squad once again look rather racy here in Monza, but they had good pace in Belgium last time out and we all know how that ended.

The unwillingness of either Force India driver to give way when it came to duelling on track, ruined their chances of scoring big points. The pair have been warned ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, that they are not to race each other, so it will be interesting to see how that works out on Sunday!

McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Stoffel Vandoorne was an impressive ninth, just one tenth of a second off the pace of the Force India, with Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa completing the top ten.

Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr, who is celebrating his 23rd birthday in Italy today, was eleventh, having reported a lack of stability in the car early on. That led to the STR12 being up on stilts in the garage through the middle part of the session, minimising the Spaniard’s running time this morning, even more so as he had the halo attached to his car for the first few laps of the session.

A late spin at Parabolica, having looked like he was going to save it, did not help matters and saw Sainz Jr. have a brief foray into the run-off area, after team-mate Daniil Kvyat had reported that the track surface was slippery, following a few drops of rain. More bad news followed for the Spaniard, as he was given a five-place grid penalty for an MGU-H change – Happy birthday Carlos!

Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen was due to sit out FP1 to allow Ferrari academy driver Antonio Giovinazzi a run out in the VF17, however once Haas realised it was going to be a dry session, they quickly changed those plans.

The American squad wanted to ensure the Dane would get some dry running, with the weather forecast not looking too clever for the majority of the weekend.

Lance Stroll was thirteenth fastest, ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Kvyat and McLaren driver Fernando Alonso. It was a strange session for the Spaniard, who had the halo attached to the MCL32 for the first few laps of FP1. The double world champion will likely be starting from the back of the grid on Sunday however, after receiving a 35-place grid penalty for an engine update this weekend.

The Woking based squad’s plan is to get the unit update out of the way this weekend, with Alonso switching back to his previous engine for FP2, so they can enjoy the advantages at the following round in Singapore, where they are confident of being much stronger.

Romain Grosjean was next up in sixteenth place, with the usual grumbles over team radio from the Frenchman, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who was somewhat off the pace this morning, with no real explanation for it. Team-mate Jolyon Palmer was six tenths further back in eighteenth place, however the Brit did have a delayed start to proceedings whilst work was completed on his RS17.

Sauber F1 Team driver Pascal Wehrlein was nineteenth fastest, and was another driver testing the halo cockpit protection device this morning, ahead of team-mate Marcus Ericsson, who once again propped up the bottom of the order.

So, Mercedes hold the cards following free practice one, with Hamilton and Bottas comfortably ahead of the Ferrari duo. However, as always, do not expect it to necessarily remain that way, at the next session, with the Italian squad likely to up the ante, and the rain to likely throw a spanner in the works.

2017 Italian Grand Prix – Free Practice One Results

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