Lewis Hamilton turned the tables on Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to top the time sheet at the end of Friday practice at the Italian Grand Prix.
The world championship leader’s fastest time of the day, a 1m20.192s, was 0.262s quicker than Bottas’s best effort. In an ominous sign for the rest of the weekend, the next-closest driver was almost 0.9s slower than Hamilton’s benchmark, in this case McLaren’s Lando Norris, 0.897s adrift.
The Briton — who set his time near the end of the session after being confined to his garage for most of the afternoon with a power unit problem — would have been usurped by Daniel Ricciardo, but the Renault driver was one of several to have had his best lap deleted for running wide at Parabolica, demoting him to 15th.
Pierre Gasly followed in fourth for AlphaTauri, but the Frenchman ended his session prematurely reporting “bouncing at the rear” of his car on an out-lap for what would have been his final stint on track.
Max Verstappen was fifth quickest for Red Bull Racing, more than a second down on Hamilton’s benchmark. Carlos Sainz was close behind in the second McLaren after running through the gravel exiting the first Lesmo, and the McLaren driver finished fractionally ahead of AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
Charles Leclerc was ninth quickest and 1.3s adrift for Ferrari, but neither of the Italian team’s drivers offered positive reviews for the troubled SF1000.
“The car is so hard to drive,” Leclerc said after running wide and across the gravel out of the first Lesmo, his car imitating the behavior of teammate’s Vettel machine only minutes earlier at the same corner.
Vettel, however, was powerless to prevent his car spinning backwards into the barriers in his instance, albeit without sustaining any real damage. He finished 12th and 1.5s off the pace, although he also had his fastest time deleted for exceeding track limits at Parabolica.
Between the teammates were Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in 10th and 11th respectively. Antonio Giovinazzi was 13th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Alex Albon in the second Red Bull Racing car, the Thai another to fall foul of track limits at the final corner, as was Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen in 15th and 16th.
Kimi Raikkonen was 17th ahead of Romain Grosjean, while Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi and George Russell brought up the rear of the pack.
Driving standards were again in the spotlight during second practice, with drivers circulating slowly to position themselves to pick up a slipstream from a leading car, a potentially valuable bonus at the super-fast Monza circuit.
The matter was discussed among team bosses and race director Michael Masi ahead of the weekend, and drivers have since been warned stewards will be enforcing maximum lap times during FP3 and qualifying based on data from Friday practice.
The reinforced rule aims to prevent dangerous driving as well as the farcical scenes from the end of qualifying last year when several cars failed to set a final lap when the clock expired on the session.