Mercedes in control ahead of Monza Sprint
By Mat Coch
Saturday 11th September, 2021 - 9:15pm
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas headed the final practice session at the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, reaffirming the pace Mercedes had shown on Friday.
While Max Verstappen was third and Sergio Perez fourth, the session proved difficult to read owing to a mix of tyre compounds and fuel loads in use by teams.
Sprint Qualifying follows, with some opting to focus their longer runs with a view to that 30-minute encounter, and others looking to Sunday’s race.
Others still banked some Hollywood times, serving only to confuse the relative pecking order.
The session marked the final opportunity to teams to get out on track outside of a competitive session, though there was hardly a stampede as things got underway.
Only a handful of cars took to the circuit initially, with the likes of Fernando Alonso having not even strapped on his helmet – let alone climbed into the car – before the session commenced.
Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas were also slow in stepping into their respective offices.
Only the two Haas’ setting somewhat representative times set inside the opening five minutes.
Neither set electric times, suggesting high fuel race runs were the order of the day.
Even after 10 minutes not all drivers had been on track; the two Alpines, George Russell, Bottas, and Verstappen keeping their powder dry.
When the Mercedes driver did head out, he was the first to have the hard compound tyres bolted on.
It took another five minutes before every driver had been on track, the slow start quickly ramping up to see almost all 20 cars on track.
Verstappen quickly rose to the top of the timesheets with a 1:23.895s, two tenths clear of team-mate Perez on a 1:24.190s.
The Dutchman was on a set of soft tyres, his team-mate the mediums as Red Bull split its approach to double its data gathering.
After 27 minutes, the red flag was shown as Carlos Sainz crashed at the Variante Ascari.
The Spaniard lost control at the left-hander entering the complex, nosing heavily into the unprotected barrier to drivers’ left.
Replays showed the kerb sent the Ferrari around, the impact with the wall hard enough that Sainz’s foot temporarily applied full throttle.
The session resumed after 13 minutes, the circuit quickly becoming busy once more.
The timesheets painted a confused picture, with Antonio Giovinazzi third, and Nicholas Latifi fourth as the session entered its final 15 minutes.
On the soft tyres, Hamilton went fastest with a 1:23.246s, half a second clear of Verstappen.
Bottas joined him at the top, 0.2s down on his team-mate also with the red-walled rubber fitted.
The muddled order was reflective of the mixed priorities for teams, and the fuel loads that necessitated.
Track limits remained an issue, Nikita Mazepin having two successive laps deleted after running wide at the Curva Alboreto, as did Norris soon after.
The McLaren driver then missed the apex of Turn 5 before again running wide at the final corner.
The session ended with Hamilton fastest from Bottas and Verstappen, the top three having used a mix of all three tyre compounds.
Alfa Romeo showed well, though how much can be read into the Italian-backed team’s efforts is unclear given McLaren had Norris in 10th and Ricciardo 12th.
McLaren had showed well on Friday, and qualified strongly, and are in with a realistic shot of a podium on Sunday.
Regardless, it ended the final practice of the weekend, with Sprint Qualifying to follow at 00:30 AEST on Sunday morning.
Results: Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, Free Practice 2
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||1:23.662||+0.416s||23|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||1:23.917||+0.671s||29|
|6||88||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo||1:24.280||+1.034s||28|
|7||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1:24.502||+1.256s||26|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:24.654||+1.408s||24|
|15||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:25.422||+2.176s||32|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1:25.763||+2.517s||28|
|18||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:25.935||+2.689s||28|