Defending champion Lewis Hamilton topped the only practice session ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying session in a practice which was dominated by the Mercedes-powered cars. Championship leader Max Verstappen was half a second adrift of his rival despite using the softest compound.
It came as no surprise that the Mercedes-powered cars dominated Free Practice 1 for the Italian Grand Prix as the hybrid power unit from Brackley has been believed to enjoy a significant advantage over the products of its rivals, Renault, Ferrari and Honda since early summer.
While Mercedes dismisses 'special engine solution', Red Bull is said to have lodged a query with the FIA regarding a design concept that it believes Mercedes is running. The Milton Keynes-based outfit suspects that the Mercedes engines have been gaining in the early phase of acceleration, which, they believe, is down to Mercedes super cooling air.
Round 14 of the 2021 F1 season marks the second event featuring the Sprint Qualifying format, which means that there is only a single practice session before qualifying takes place on Friday evening. As a consequence, the Italian Grand Prix started with an eventful practice with drivers and engineers eager to fine-tune the cars before parc ferme conditions are in effect from the time drivers first exit the pits during qualifying.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton got a perfect start to his weekend after the Dutch Grand Prix that saw him lose the championship lead to Max Verstappen. The Briton used three sets of Medium compound in the practice session, saving his two sets of Hard and eight sets of Soft for the remainder of the event.
Hamilton started his practice in top form, leading the majority of the session. He conducted his qualifying simulation on the yellow-walled compound, registering a time of 1m20.926s. Verstappen used all three types of Pirelli’s three-compound selection for this weekend, starting with the hard before switching to the medium. He posted his fastest lap on the red-walled softs, but he was almost half a second shy of Hamilton despite the Briton using a harder compound.
Behind the leading duo were Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finishing in P5. Another Mercedes-powered car, Sebastian Vettel followed with Carlos Sainz having taken 7th. Ferrari presented itself in a better shape than it did just a year ago when it reached the lowest point of its dismal season on home turf at Monza. The Spaniard’s team mate Charles Leclerc ended up only 11th, but he had his best lap time deleted for exceeding the track limits at the Parabolica that has just been renamed in honour of Michele Alboreto.
A similar incident happened to McLaren’s Lando Norris which saw the Briton finish down in P12 with his team mate Daniel Ricciardo ending up 9th.
In the lower region of the field, George Russell, who carried a helmet-mounted camera to give us a first-person view of his pace in the Williams, registered the 17th fastest time just a place behind Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver Robert Kubica, who is standing in for Kimi Räikkönen at the second consecutive weekend.
Nicholas Latifi, who has just had his contract with Williams renewed, was 18th, leaving Haas pair Mazepin (19th) and Mick Schumacher (20th) to round out the standings.
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:21.378||+0.452s||22|
|4||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:21.676||+0.750s||23|
|5||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Honda||1:21.719||+0.793s||28|
|6||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:21.824||+0.898s||26|
|8||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:21.926||+1.000s||24|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:22.003||+1.077s||27|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:22.039||+1.113s||23|
|12||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:22.103||+1.177s||27|
|13||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:22.270||+1.344s||26|
|14||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda||1:22.530||+1.604s||31|
|15||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:22.534||+1.608s||27|
|16||88||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:23.009||+2.083s||28|
|17||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:23.092||+2.166s||31|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:23.442||+2.516s||30|
|19||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||1:23.445||+2.519s||23|
|20||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:23.551||+2.625s||23|