Carlos Sainz ensured Ferrari topped both Friday practice sessions for their home Italian Grand Prix – but it was his team-mate Charles Leclerc who is in the box seat at Monza.
It was not only the Scuderia’s pace that has established Leclerc as favourite but the penalties that have been announced for his chief rivals.
Seven drivers have been confirmed as taking power-unit related grid penalties this weekend, with potentially at least one more to come, and they include some of the leading contenders.
Lewis Hamilton and Sainz are set to start at the back of the grid, while Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen have also incurred penalties along with Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher. There is also a question mark regarding Kevin Magnussen.
Ferrari, with a special livery to mark their 75th anniversary as a constructor, were among the teams who had paid tribute on their cars to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on Thursday aged 96. A minute’s silence had been held before FP1 and another is set to take place before Sunday’s race.
The action was straight under way as FP2 began, on the medium tyres, with the usual suspects taking their familiar positions at the top of the timesheet early on, Ferrari and Red Bull duelling for the leading positions ahead of the Mercedes pair.
A gradual switch to the soft rubber with around 35 minutes remaining sparked the inevitable improvements as Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso moved into the top five, while Verstappen got in a lap that dipped into the 1:21s for the first time just before the day’s first yellow flags – and then red – appeared.
Mick Schumacher reported his Haas had “cut out” as he stopped beside the track and said he thought he had “seized the engine or something…what happened?”. The German had been confirmed as taking a gearbox penalty for the race just before the session had begun. The team were quick to reveal what the problem had been:
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) September 9, 2022
Twenty five minutes were left on the clock when the session resumed and Sainz vaulted to the top of the leaderboard, fastest by 14 hundredths of a second, while George Russell reported “bottoming” in his Mercedes – the other car that had appeared to be noticeably porpoising on the day being the Alpine. Hamilton, meanwhile, said his W13 was “very unstable”.
Russell’s race engineer then responded by saying he thought “it’s affecting both cars” as the younger of the two British team-mates said deployment was “all over the place”.
From there it was race simulations with few changes to the standings, the only excitement being excursions across the gravel by Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas, on a day when Ferrari will be encouraged to think this could be Leclerc’s weekend – provided they avoid the operational and reliability troubles that have plagued their campaign.
As for the stewards, they will have one of their regular meetings with Tsunoda after he was summoned for failing to slow down sufficiently when the yellow flags were waved – in addition to power-unit penalties, the AlphaTauri racer also has a 10-place grid drop at Monza for receiving five reprimands this season.
1 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:21.664
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.143
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.193
4 Lando Norris McLaren +0.674
5 George Russell Mercedes +0.722
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.730
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.839
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.064
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine +1.088
10 Alex Albon Williams +1.171
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.247
12 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1.274
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1.329
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1.471
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1.553
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.893
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +2.067
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +2.121
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams +2.318
20 Mick Schumacher Haas +2.922