Sergio Perez set the fastest time in first practice for the Italian Grand Prix as a wet track saw both Force India drivers finish in the top three.
Heavy morning rain left the track extremely wet at the start of FP1, but that didn’t deter teams from running as conditions slowly improved as the session went on. While some drivers ended running early as the track was still too wet for slicks but causing intermediates to overheat quickly, the Force Indias and Kimi Raikkonen were on track at the end of the session and got the best of the conditions.
A strong final lap from Perez — posting the fastest second and final sectors — saw the Mexican post a 1m34.000s to lead Raikkonen by over half a second. It was so nearly a Force India one-two as Esteban Ocon ended up just 0.043s adrift of Raikkonen, with the pace showing Force India’s prowess in wet conditions after the pair locked out the second row in Spa last weekend.
Mixed conditions are expected in FP2 and a threat continues on Saturday, so Force India will be eyeing a repeat performance as the weekend progresses.
That forecast meant there was plenty of running taking place to get a feel for the intermediate tires, with only the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll and Lando Norris failing to reach double figures in terms of laps.
Vettel’s tally of four laps still involved an off-track moment at the second chicane known as the Variante della Roggia, while Norris — replacing Stoffel Vandoorne for FP1 but ending up slowest overall — also went straight on at the Turn 1 Variante del Rettifilo.
The tricky conditions ensured a mixed up order throughout the field, with Brendon Hartley fourth for Toro Rosso on a 1m35.024s, less than 0.2s clear of Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian had a worrying start to the session when he slowed on his installation lap with a loss of power, but the incident didn’t prove too serious as he managed 19 laps with an updated Renault power unit, one of which featured a trip through the gravel at the second Lesmo.
Pierre Gasly was sixth ahead of Max Verstappen in seventh, but there was also a nervous moment for the second Red Bull as Verstappen lost the rear at Parabolica and slid sideways through the corner before recovering.
Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg and Bottas rounded out the top 10, with championship leader Hamilton one position behind his teammate in 11th having set a best time some 2.5 seconds off the pace.