Formula 1

Mercedes Dominate Italian FP1+2

For the last time in Europe this season the sound of the V6 engines could be heard at the temple of speed, as F1 headed into Tifosi territory at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. However, in Free practice it wasn’t the beloved red cars domination. As once again Mercedes dominated both sessions.

Free Practice 1 saw the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg set the fastest time with a 1:22.959. Two tenths faster that his team mate Lewis Hamilton who finished the session in second. This time last year Hamilton had dominated every practice session going into Qualifying. But he seemed to struggle today in the first session. With several lock ups into the turn five chicane as he looked to find the limits of the track.

There is one team however that the passionate Tifosi are cheering on. And it was some good news for them as the Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were 3rd and 4th respectively in FP1. What wasn’t such good news was the fact that both of them were a second shy of the Mercedes time, even with their latest engine upgrades introduced at the team’s home race.

Sergio Perez continued Force India’s fine run of form by managing the 5th fastest time in the session. The time will be of no assurance to Williams, who had to watch Force India leapfrog them for 4th in the constructors table last time out in Belgium. Valtteri Bottas was the fastest Williams in 7th place. With the Haas of Romain Grosjean splitting the Force India and Williams. It was a good session for the American based Haas team. With Esteban Gutierrez managing 9th in the session too. Suggesting the Haas may have some pace around here.

One team who seem to be struggling for pace and straight-line speed is the Red Bull. It’s a characteristic we see time and again from them. They handle well in the corners, but in a straight-line the Red Bull is down on power. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were only able to manage 8th and 10th respectively for the session, on what surely must be a weekend of damage limitation for the team.

Once again Monza saw Pirelli testing an unspecified compound in the first session. As well as McLaren driver Jenson Button, Verstappen, and Perez trailing the Halo head protection device. And while Kevin Magnussen finished the session last in an underperforming Renault, it was good to see him racing after his horrific smash into the barriers at the top of Eau Rouge in Spa last weekend.

It was much the same story for Free Practice 2 as well. With the Mercedes drivers managing a 1-2, separated by two tenths of a second. Only this time the roles were reversed, with Hamilton two tenths faster than Rosberg in the session. There doesn’t seem to be much to pick between the two drivers heading into Qualifying tomorrow.

“It’s going to be close this weekend, but I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,” Hamilton told the media after the days running.

Like in Free Practice 1, the Ferrari duo of Vettel and Raikkonen were 3rd and 4th respectively, with Vettel two tenths quicker than his team mate. On the whole it was a more positive session for the team, as they came to within half a second of the Mercedes. Seeing as they were off the pace by a second in FP1 this is a significant improvement. They also managed some good place on their long runs, showing that their new engine tokens have been well spent. And that they could be an issue for the Mercedes if either drivers faulters at some point during the weekend.

“We’re trying a lot of different things on Friday – on full beans, not at full beans, at different times,” said Vettel. “Friday’s always difficult, but it looked okay nevertheless. The feeling is not yet right, we need to adjust the car and find some more performance.”

Red Bull were another team who had a more positive Free Practice Two as Verstappen and Ricciardo finished the session in 5th and 6th respectively, albeit three tenths of a second behind the Ferrari’s. The Red Bulls do still seem to be struggling with the straight-line speed though.Despite running a Monza spacific rear wing here to help them. The surprise of the session came from the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who finished the session 7th overall. Continuing on from his good form last weekend. It was also a good session for the Williams of Bottas who was able to finish the session ahead of both Force India’s in 8th. While the Haas of Grosjean once again showed they may be contenders for points again this weekend, finishing FP2 in 9th place.

Alonso’s McLaren’s team-mate Button was able to finish the session in 10th as well, showing the improvement in form from the team. A year ago at Monza, McLaren were at the back of the field and only out-qualified the Manor team. So for both cars to be in the top ten for the practice session is an impressive feat from the team. Especially as Monza is a team that traditionally shows up the weaker engines due to its high speed nature.

Button seemed happy with the progress the car had made when he talked to reporters after the session. “The long-run pace is alright, we need to do some work before we are properly competitive and fight for some good points. Hopefully we can be a little bit stronger tomorrow, and if we are, we’re looking alright.”

Free Practice One Results
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:22.959
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:23.162
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:24.047
4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:24.307
5. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:24.650
6. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:24.763
7. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:24.785
8. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:24.982
9. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:25.113
10. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:25.120
11. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:25.351
12. Alfonso Celis, Force India, 1:25.367
13. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:25.507
14. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:25.840
15. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:25.853
16. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:25.973
17. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:26.074
18. Esteban Ocon, Manor, 1:26.391
19. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:26.439
20. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:26.762
21. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:26.811
22. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:26.956

Free Practice 2 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:22.801
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:22.994
3. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:23.254
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:23.427
5. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:23.732
6. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:24.003
7. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:24.259
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:24.299
9. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:24.516
10. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:24.549
11. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:24.556
12. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:24.587
13. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:24.653
14. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:24.674
15. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:24.981
16. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:25.083
17. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:25.240
18. Esteban Ocon, Manor, 1:25.275
19. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:25.555
20. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:25.614
21. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:25.643
22. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:25.833

Feature Image Credit: Williams Martini Racing

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