Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel topped the times in practice for the Italian Grand Prix. In the wet FP1, Perez set the fastest time by half a second over Kimi Raikkonen as the circuit improved rapidly. In the dry FP1, it was Vettel who was a quarter of a second faster than the Finn.
Ferrari and Mercedes evenly matched
As we expected Ferrari and Mercedes appear as if they are very evenly matched in the dry, you need to read FP2 as the only real indicator of both teams performance as we had a wet FP1. The gap between Vettel (P1) and Hamilton (P2) was .28 of a second, but we know that’s not the true pace as we head into qualifying.
We know that Ferrari is now expected to be the faster car on track, they have underlined that advantage at the fastest circuit on the calendar. The question is how do Mercedes respond to that pressure going into qualifying.
Hamilton said “We did plenty of laps this afternoon in the dry and we could see that, like in Spa, we had a small gap to Ferrari on both the short and the long runs. My laps felt pretty good, but Ferrari was a little bit quicker today.”
“We’re all working flat out right now in every part of the team, and we have work to do tonight as well – but there are some areas where we can see deficits, so I hope we can make a little step for qualifying.” Mercedes know how to unlock performance at Monza, and on paper, it’s a circuit which Mercedes have been really strong at in recent years.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s weekend didn’t get off to the best start after a gearbox issue caused him to sit out most of FP1 and despite going fastest in FP2, the four times champion made a mistake on track going through the Parabolica.
Vettel said “The small problem was more my side, I lost some track time because I pushed maybe a bit too hard. But equally, it’s good to find out. The car seemed to be OK. The most important was that we could still carry on and still gather some data.”
“I tried and I know what doesn’t work, and it’s good to know. I thought I managed it without touching the barrier, but I touched it slightly, and we broke a bit of the rear-wing endplate and had to change.”
Ericsson unharmed in highspeed
Marcus Ericsson has escaped uninjured from a high-speed crash during second practice. As the Sauber driver braked into the chicane and hit the brakes the DRS failed to close, sending him into a spin hitting the barriers head on that spun the car around.
Then as he exits the spin the car flips over rolling him further down the side of the escape road. It was a nasty accident and is a testament to the safety of F1.
Speaking after the session, team principal Fred Vasseur reviled that Charles Leclerc also suffered a similar incident. He told the media “We are still investigating precisely but as you saw on the TV, the DRS stayed open on Turn One when he hit the brakes. We had the same issue with Charles on the second stint, so we stopped the car to fix the problem so we will be on the safe side.”
“This is the first time and probably due to the developed downforce for today. It is a new rear wing, but it is not the wing, just the DRS flap.”
Formula One has announced its provisional calendar for 2019 featuring twenty-one races. The 2019 season will start a week earlier and finish a week later, as usual Australia will hold the opening race and Abu Dhabi the final race on the first of December.
The reason for moving Melbourne forward and Abu Dhabi back is to avoid the triple header. The German Grand Prix has also been confirmed following negotiations between Liberty and Hockenheim, with world champions Mercedes becoming title sponsor of the race, while Renault will sponsor there home race as well.
Ricciardo encouraged by engine
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo says that Renaults engine upgrade for this weekend’s race has shown encouraging signs. Ricciardo has taken a new engine for this weekend, meaning he will start from the back of the grid.
However, it looked to get off to a difficult start as at the start of FP1 he slowed on track. Red Bull confirmed the issue remedied itself almost immediately, allowing him to complete the day without further problems.
Team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports, “It was just a bit of a software issue that the engine went into a safe mode, a numbers thing, so once the numbers have been rectified, he could continue.”
Renault are hoping that the new engine will boost performance, however, it is unknown how much the manufacturer has gained until tomorrows qualifying.
Asked how he approached a weekend knowing he will start at the back, he replied: “I try to approach it the same. But probably a bit more relaxed knowing there’s not much to do other than race. We did a few long runs but the likelihood of us qualifying tomorrow is slim knowing we’ll start at the back, so just focus on race runs. It’s kinda chill.”
Hulkenberg to start on the back row
Nico Hulkenberg will join his future teammate Daniel Ricciardo on the back row after he took a full engine chance ahead of this weekends race.
This was decided in FP1 because the Australian was the first driver out on the track and the first to use the replacement elements, having just beaten his 2019 Renault teammate to the end of the pitlane. Hulkenberg already took a new power unit in Belgium and was thus one of four drivers demoted to the back.
However, Hulkenberg has a 10-place grid penalty for Monza after the first corner crash, so the Enstone team has decided to take advantage of the situation and add more new elements to the pool.
This should enable Hulkenberg to get to the end of the season without further penalty.
Tomorrow’s qualifying is going to be another battle between both Ferrari and Mercedes, we have seen very small margins. The session will I believe see new records set should the track remain dry and this session will be about the power of the engines, that means that it is another Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel fight.