Italian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen lands early FP1 blow but all is not lost for Ferrari

Michelle Foster
Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen grinning in the Red Bull garage.

Max Verstappen grinning in the Red Bull garage.

Max Verstappen dealt an early reminder to Ferrari about who’s the driver to beat by setting the fastest lap time in the opening practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, but the Tifosi will take some encouragement as Carlos Sainz was only 0.046s down.

Verstappen, who is seeking a record-breaking 10th race win on the trot this weekend, posted a 1:22.657 to grab the Monza weekend’s first P1 with Sainz second ahead of Sergio Perez.

Swapping the sea of orange from Zandvoort for a wave of red at Monza, Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were amongst the first out with the Monégasque driver waving to the fans as he toured the track at the start of his out-lap.

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It was, however, the McLaren Oscar Piastri, one of a handful of drivers starting on the soft Pirelli tyres, who claimed the early P1. A 1:23.4 on the soft tyres put him 0.033s up on the Red Bull of Max Verstappen with Sergio Perez next in line ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and then the Ferrari teammates.

There were early problems for Alfa Romeo, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu experiencing anti-stall as they tried to leave the pits. Bottas barely made it out of his garage, the Finn pushed back in as he reported he was “getting anti-stall immediately” while Zhou almost made it to the end of the pit lane, giving his mechanics an early work-out as they ran to fetch his car.

Verstappen, running the hard tyres, hit the front with a 1:23 and then upped his pace to a 1:22.6 with Leclerc up to second in his new-look Ferrari with its Le Mans-inspired livery. The local favourite was, however, three-tenths down on the reigning World Champion.

20 minutes into the session neither of the Alfa Romeo drivers, nor the Williams teammates, had completed even a single lap.

As the leading bunch made their way back into the pits, Liam Lawson in his second grand prix weekend hit double figures for his lap count with the Kiwi needing as much track time as possible in the AT04, the car sporting an almost non-existent beam wing that’s track-specific. recommends

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Verstappen and Perez returned to the track with the under-fire Mexican driver making it a Red Bull 1-2 ahead of a Ferrari 3-4 with Fernando Alonso up to fifth.

Bottas’ problems continued with the Finn out on track but reporting that all was not well with the rear of his car, even calling it “undriveable”, Pierre Gasly also had rear-end issues and Leclerc was into the pits for rear suspension changes.

Back out on track, Leclerc’s Ferrari smoked its way down the pit lane while Alex Albon had the first notable off as he went through the gravel at Turn 10. George Russell entered the tussle for a top-ten showing as he jumped up to fifth place with his teammate Lewis Hamilton, both fresh from signing new contracts, went eighth quickest.

The session ended with Verstappen fastest of all but there was some encouragement for Ferrari with Sainz just 0.046s down. Felipe Drugovich, driving Lance Stroll’s in a young driver FP1 outing, was 18th, nine-tenths down on Alonso.


1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:22.657
2 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.046
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.177
4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.309
5 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.532
6 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.557
7 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.584
8 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.612
9 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.614
10 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.787
11 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.789
12 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.004
13 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +1.176
14 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.274
15 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.295
16 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.410
17 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.433
18 Felipe DRUGOVICH Aston Martin +1.483
19 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.560
20 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.575

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