The weather played a key role on Friday of F1 Italian GP at Monza, where Mercedes felt closer to Ferrari than Spa-Francorchamps.
While the first practice session in F1 Italian GP at Monza was pretty much washed out by rain and red flag disruptions, the second session provided some dry running but teams had different strategies in place.
Even in that much, Mercedes seemed confident while Ferrari were slightly downbeat looking at the closeness. The German outfit felt a lot closer to the Italian team, both in qualifying and race trim than Belgian GP.
Ferrari did topped the timesheet via Charles Leclerc on different compounds but Lewis Hamilton was always up there in the Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel lacked some confidence unlike Leclerc.
“The day went quite well,” said Leclerc. “While it is nice to be quickest, I don’t think that we have a real picture of the whole situation yet due to the tricky conditions we faced on track.
“In FP1, we were very competitive, especially on the intermediates, which is a positive. However, the lap times on the dry tyres in FP2 are not really representative and we have to keep working and understand where we can gain some more time.
“Our competitors are quick and we are still to see their full potential. The car felt good. In terms of race pace, we are not yet at the point we were in Spa. On the qualifying pace, we also have some work to do and we will give our all to do a good job.”
Hamilton conceded that Ferrari still seem quick on straights but the advantage seems less at Monza. “Practice was a bit of a challenge with the weather; when it’s raining, it’s all risk and no real reward as you don’t really learn a lot, so we didn’t do a huge amount of running in the first session,” he said.
“It was mostly dry in FP2, so that was much better for everyone. As expected, the Ferraris are quite quick in a straight line, but our race pace felt strong and we seem to be a little closer on single lap pace than we were last week in Spa, so it looks like we can be in the fight.
“We’ll go through the data with a fine comb tonight, trying to see where I can improve as a driver and also what we can tweak with the set-up, to make sure we can squeeze everything out of the car. It’s going to be a really hard race on Sunday, but we seem to be close to the Ferraris which is good start to the weekend.”
Their teammates Vettel and Valtteri Bottas were down on them though as they found it slightly tough to eke out the best. The Top 2 teams though seems set, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen having a penalty.
The Dutchman pretty much worked on the long run pace as Alexander Albon has a good chance to start from Top 5 and push to catch Ferrari and Mercedes ahead. Verstappen felt positive with the Honda upgrade.
“The conditions were a bit tricky out there, but the car was working really well and we seem quite competitive on a track that doesn’t normally suit us,” he said. “Around Monza, the real lap time is hard to see because of the tow but my fastest lap was done on my own and it felt good.
“I definitely think this new engine is a good step forward and you can feel the extra power which is positive. We know we won’t battle in qualifying as we will start at the back but looking at the long runs the pace was good and the car felt really nice to drive in all conditions which is always a big bonus.
“I would probably choose rain for Sunday starting at the back, as we will have a better chance of coming through the field, but even in the dry we can still be competitive and we will try to make a fun race out of it.”
The rest of the Top 10 was more spread out with Toro Rosso looking the best out of the lot with both cars inside the top half in both the sessions. Renault were the next best as McLaren had a slightly off run.
Among others, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo Racing and Haas were thereabouts as Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen were limited by their respective crashes in the first practice session.