Mercedes Lewis Hamilton was fastest after going four tenths faster than his team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix.
The Englishman set his fastest time on the supersoft tyres and that put him over a second faster than his championship rival Sebastian Vettel who was third, with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen fourth. Hamilton progress by two-tenths during the session.
The Ferrari’s head into their home Grand Prix, where they also celebrate seventy years of Grand Prix racing knowing they are on the back foot because of the power defect to Mercedes. Many cars headed onto track early to maximise dry running as the threat of rain wasn’t far away
Last weekend, Mercedes made a strong start to the Belgian Grand Prix, but Ferrari managed to close that gap down through the weekend.
The light rain eventually came, with around 15 minutes of the session to go, with race control reporting the track was slippery in sector two, and everyone headed back to the pits. Ferrari headed back out to try to improve as the track dry.
Many drivers pushed hard, with most of the leading drivers exploring the limits on this track where braking from high speed is a crucial part of a fast lap time.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fifth ahead of his team-mate Max Verstappen. This weekend was expected to be a challenge for the Red Bull’s given their power defect to the Mercedes an Ferrari’s, so they chose to change components ahead of the session, meaning they will take 20 and 15-place grid penalties respectively.
Both Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon appear evenly matched running seventh and eighth. This could cause concern for the team following the two’s tangle in last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, which has caused the team to impose stricter rules of engagement.
Practice is more a test session for McLaren this weekend, Honda has brought and upgraded power unit, which Fernando Alonso ran and that earns him a thirty-five place grid penalty.
However, Alonso will be switch back to an older spec unit – the one Alonso raced at Spa – for the remainder of the weekend. That also meant his morning was cut short, so McLaren could get him back on track.
Honda wanted to use the session to test performance, but save mileage on the engine for Singapore, as it feels a good result is possible at the next race.
Williams Felipe Massa was tenth fastest and two-tenths off the pace, with team-mate Lance Stroll thirteenth. However, because of the extra power from the Mercedes power unit they are expected to improve on that.
Haas was expecting to run the Ferrari young driver Antoino Giovinazzi, but because of the threat of rain this weekend, they decided to run both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was eleventh with teammate Daniil Kvyat fourteenth. Grosjean finished sixteenth for Haas, ahead of Renault pair Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer. Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson nineteenth and twentieth.