Carlos Sainz did what Lewis Hamilton could not and found that half a second needed to beat Max Verstappen in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.
Putting in late-session qualifying simulations in FP3, Hamilton clocked a 1:21.4 before Verstappen crossed the line 0.4s faster with Hamilton telling Mercedes: “I don’t know how to find that half a second.”
But while he couldn’t, Sainz did, with the Ferrari driver delighting the Tifosi as he crossed the line with a 1:20.912 to beat Verstappen by 0.086.
Carlos Sainz beats Max Verstappen in FP3
Friday’s late-crasher at the Parabolica, Sergio Perez, was one of the first onto the track with his RB19 sporting a new rear-end and rear wing with Lance Stroll, who Aston Martin said was on the “backfoot” after missing FP2 with a fuel system problem, also quickly into the action.
Perez went quickest with a 1:22.6 on the soft Pirellis, lining up ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly, before Lando Norris hit the front. And then came Max Verstappen…
The reigning World Champion went P1 on his first flying lap of the session, comfortably quickest with a 1:21.8 that was almost seven-tenths up on Norris’ best.
Hamilton wasn’t having an easy time in his W14 as he got his braking wrong and missed the apex at Turn 2. In sharp contrast Charles Leclerc was happier, telling Ferrari: “Getting used to this car, but it’s getting better.”
But Yuki Tsunoda wasn’t happy with the Ferrari driver who was in the middle of the track as he came up behind him, the traditional “what the f**k” in play.
Back at the front Verstappen upped his pace to a 1:21.6 and told Red Bull he was “quite happy” with the car, Perez almost got within half a second of his teammate, and Hamilton went third ahead of Carlos Sainz, Norris and Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton’s next lap saw him taking avoiding action with a Williams in his way while Nico Hulkenberg had to jink around an Aston Martin mechanic as he made his way into his pit box.
Slapping on a brand new set of soft tyres for a qualifying simulation, Kevin Magnussen shot up to third place in the Haas but it was short-lived as, bucking the usual soft tyre trend for a set of mediums, Alex Albon went second as he became the first driver to get within half a second of Verstappen.
“Why are people so stupid? They can’t look in their mirrors,” was Norris’ criticism as he had to go off the track to avoid an Alfa Romeo. Seconds later his teammate Oscar Piastri was also off, but that was because of a mistake of his own making with the Aussie flying off the track at Turn 5.
The Mercedes teammates put in their qualifying sims with Hamilton hitting the front with a 1:21.4 while George Russell went third quickest. Verstappen, though, had yet to do his hot lap. As he left the pits with a new set of softs on his RB19, there was drama on the other side of the garage with Perez out of his car and his mechanics removing the floor.
Verstappen clocked a 1:20.998 to hit the front, 0.455s ahead of Hamilton. “I don’t know how to find that half a second,” was Hamilton’s dejected response to that. Ferrari were the last of the front-runners to put in flying laps and Carlos Sainz did find it, a 1:20.912 to go 0.086s faster than Verstappen.
The session ended with Sainz P1 ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton and Leclerc with Alonso P5 ahead of Russell, Magnussen and Hulkenberg.
1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 1:20.912
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.086
3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.541
4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.574
5 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.799
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.818
7 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.972
8 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.073
9 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.142
10 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +1.280
11 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.333
12 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +1.384
13 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.385
14 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.390
15 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.468
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.599
17 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.603
18 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.827
19 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.830
20 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.940