Valtteri Bottas headed the pack in the final free practice session of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, but the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team did not have such an easy session as they did on Friday.
Bottas’ best lap of 1:20.089 flouted the track limits at Parabolica but stood as the best time of the session, and it was the two McLaren F1 Team drivers who proved to be the closest challengers to the Finn.
It was a slow start to the session, with only a handful of drivers following Antonio Giovinazzi out for installation laps in the opening fifteen minutes. The first driver to set a time was McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr., who set a time of 1.21.875. He stayed on track to then improve to a 1:21.502, just as a whole host of cars hit the track.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first to beat Sainz with a 1:21.441, before Bottas and then Lewis Hamilton moved the target down to a 1:20.658. Times tumbled throughout the session, with Max Verstappen hitting top spot with a 1:20.456 on the medium compound, a time he could not beat on the softer tyre.
A brief red flag, caused by Ricciardo stopping on track on the exit of the second chicane, left the drivers with a three-minute rush to the chequered flag, and Sainz. made the most of the time left to jump up into second place, 0.229 seconds back on Bottas, while Lando Norris set his best time prior to the stoppage and ended third.
Ricciardo had been third fastest but dropped to fourth thanks to Sainz’s final attempt, but he will be fearing the worst heading into Qualifying after he stopped Renault DP World F1 Team car at the side of the track with a rough-sounding R.S.20. With just a couple of hours between practice and Qualifying, Renault look like they’ve got their work cut out to ready the car for Q1.
Hamilton could only finish the session fifth fastest, but the second Mercedes driver will be disappointed with his performance, with mistakes and traffic costing him time. In the closing moments, he was lucky to escape a big accident as he came across slow running cars running side by side into Parabolica, with the Briton putting two wheels on the grass after taking avoiding action.
The FIA will be looking at slow warm-up and slow down laps this weekend, with any time exceeding 1:43s likely to be investigated. This is in a bid to avoid the kind of chaos that occurred in Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix in 2019 where no one wanted to lead the field to the start-line for their final flying laps and led to seven drivers failing to set a time.
This may be looked at harshly as traffic at Parabolica has traditionally been difficult to get through, as Hamilton’s wild moment proved in practice.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen hit the top of the timing screens midway through the session but feel to sixth at the chequered flag, with the RB16 seemingly better suited to the Monza circuit on the medium tyre rather than the soft. Team-mate Alexander Albon was seventh but was one of a number of drivers to lose lap times due to track limits.
The top ten was completed by the second Renault of Esteban Ocon and the two BWT Racing Point Formula One Team drivers, Lance Stroll ahead of Sergio Pérez.
Charles Leclerc was the leading Scuderia Ferrari driver in eleventh, but team-mate Sebastian Vettel was only fifteenth as the Maranello-based squad struggled for performance once more. Leclerc may be investigated by the stewards after appearing to block Norris as the Briton was on a quick lap heading into, again, Parabolica.
Another team that will be scratching their heads will be Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, who, after finishing inside the top seven with both cars in both Friday sessions, ended twelfth and thirteenth with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, while Romain Grosjean was the leading Haas F1 Team driver in fourteenth, with his team-mate Kevin Magnussen sixteenth.
Kimi Räikkönen ended seventeenth in the leading Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN entry, with team-mate Giovinazzi right at the back of the pack in twentieth, behind the two Williams Racing machines of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.
|1||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:20.089|
|2||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||McLaren F1 Team||1:20.318||+0.229|
|3||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1:20.412||+0.323|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Renault DP World F1 Team||1:20.419||+0.330|
|5||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:20.439||+0.350|
|6||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||1:20.456||+0.367|
|7||23||Alexander Albon||THA||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||1:20.563||+0.474|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Renault DP World F1 Team||1:20.693||+0.604|
|9||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||1:20.804||+0.715|
|10||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||1:20.897||+0.808|
|11||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1:20.917||+0.828|
|12||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:20.936||+0.847|
|13||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:20.953||+0.864|
|14||8||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Haas F1 Team||1:21.205||+1.116|
|15||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Scuderia Ferrari||1:21.263||+1.174|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||1:21.436||+1.347|
|17||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:21.459||+1.370|
|18||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1:21.677||+1.588|
|19||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:21.764||+1.675|
|20||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:22.090||+2.001|