Lewis Hamilton is confident Mercedes will be able to challenge Ferrari for the race win at Monza, saying it is “surprising” that they are so close to the Italian outfit.
After claiming their first win of the season at Spa last week, Ferrari seemed to have carried that form over to Italy as they topped Friday practice with Charles Leclerc taking the honours in both sessions.
FP1 was a wet affair due to rain, but the afternoon session was a lot drier and Leclerc produced a 1:20.978 to take P1.
However, Hamilton was not too far off his pace as he was just 0.068s slower, and the Mercedes driver admits he didn’t expect the team to be that close to Ferrari.
“Practice was a bit of a challenge today, obviously with the weather, and it’s a bit of a pointless exercise when it’s raining because it’s all risk and no real reward,” he is quoted as saying by Crash.net.
“You are not really learning a lot. We didn’t do a huge amount of practice in that session, and then obviously with it being dry in FP2, it was much, much better for everyone.
“There’s not a massive amount different to how it was in the last race. They’re [Ferrari] quite quick in a straight line, we’re quite strong I think on race pace.
“But actually perhaps a little bit closer on single lap pace. It looks like we’re going to have a fight.
He added: “It definitely is surprising. I didn’t know what to expect this weekend. I expected them to be quick on the straight, which they are, but there’s enough corners where we’re able to gain it back.
“They’re not really that quick through the corners, so it kind of balances us out.”
His team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth-fastest, 0.369s off the pace, and he also believes Mercedes have a “good chance this weekend”.
“I didn’t have a really good tow on my quickest lap, otherwise [it] felt good,” he said.
“And pretty positive on the long runs, so with the higher-fuel runs at the end I had a good feeling and good pace.
“We knew coming here that they [Ferrari] are going to be strong, but it didn’t look for sure any worse than Spa for us, so for sure we have a good chance this weekend.”