Red flags galore as Leclerc tops wet/dry FP1 at Monza

Image by Jerry Andre/LAT

Red flags galore as Leclerc tops wet/dry FP1 at Monza

Formula 1

Red flags galore as Leclerc tops wet/dry FP1 at Monza


Charles Leclerc was fastest at the end of an opening practice session for the Italian Grand Prix punctuated by three red flag periods.

Heavy morning rain ensured the start of the session took place in wet conditions, with most cars going out on full wets at the start of FP1 before conditions slowly improved. It was only in the final 10 minutes that slick tires were possible, resulting in Leclerc going fastest from the McLaren pair of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.

Only half a second covered the top three, with Leclerc posting a 1m27.905s to lead Sainz by 0.3s. Sainz was lucky to get away with a spin at Ascari early on, however, given it came just before a hectic spell where two drivers crashed.

First to go off was Kimi Raikkonen, who lost the rear as he attempted to get back on the power at Parabolica after 25 minutes. Raikkonen spun and went backwards into the barrier at relatively low speed, but was unable to rejoin form the gravel. The stoppage caused a red flag for eight minutes, and only two minutes of green running were possible after the restart before another incident.

Much like Sainz’s spin — losing the rear exiting Ascari — Sergio Perez was on an out lap and going slowly but dropped the Racing Point on exit. Spinning to the inside of the track on cold tires, he slid backwards into the barrier, with the first impact then pitching the left-front corner into the tires too. With damage to both ends, the crash caused another eight-minute delay as the car was recovered.

A third red flag was caused by Pierre Gasly just past the halfway point in the session, but his was a much less dramatic spin at Turn 1. Gasly appeared to get stuck next to the curb and needed pushing backwards by marshals before he could continue, leading to a brief delay.

Gasly wasn’t the only driver to spin at Turn 1, with Valtteri Bottas doing similar late in the session on slick tires but completing a full 360 before continuing, while Antonio Giovinazzi also swapped ends exiting Turn 2 after an hour.

Behind the top three, seven other drivers also used slick tires late in the session to lock out the top 10. Lewis Hamilton was fourth after following Sebastian Vettel — who ended up eighth — for a lap, with Alexander Albon fifth ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen. Bottas and Gasly were ninth and 10th respectively, but with 2.7s separating the top 10, it was a sign of how unrepresentative the late running was as drivers were understandably cautious given the conditions and incidents.

Raikkonen’s car was repaired during the session but he didn’t rejoin and ended up bottom of the classification without setting a time.