The world champion takes command: In the third practice session, Max Verstappen left his closest pursuer behind. Charles Leclerc has already lost three and a half tenths of a second in the red and yellow Ferrari. Mercedes still has homework to do before qualifying. Mick Schumacher slowed down the next technical breakdown.
The first message of the day concerned the drivers. Alexander Albon has to skip the Italian Grand Prix. The Thai is disabled by appendicitis. He has to go under the knife. His representative for the rest of the race weekend is a Mercedes protege. Nyck de Vries, 2021 Formula E Champion, takes over the Williams FW44.
It's a great opportunity for the Dutchman to hand in his business card. He is courting a cockpit in Formula 1 for the next season. In the third practice session, de Vries did well. He attached himself to his team-mate in 14th place. Nicholas Latifi was just a tenth of a second faster. De Vries already knows Williams. He rode it in first practice for the Spanish GP in May.
Red Bull faster than Ferrari
Ferrari set the pace on Friday. The Scuderia cleared both training best times. The competition said Ferrari turned the engine up a little more than usual to motivate themselves and heat up the atmosphere at the home game. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz reported positive signals from their car, which performed better than previously thought on the high-speed track.
However, there were still small things to improve for the Reds. In the third practice, Ferrari continued to search for the optimal balance and the right middle ground between low air resistance for the straights and still sufficient grip for the corners. Red Bull passed. Max Verstappen was initially the fastest man on the medium tires on the 5.793-kilometer route. And in the final phase also on the soft mix.
In 1:21.252 minutes, Verstappen set the fastest lap time so far this weekend on the asphalt, which was around 41 degrees. The Red Bull engineers opted for the aerodynamic configuration that brings a little more downforce. Both Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez were on the road with a larger rear wing.
Investigation against Sainz
The Ferrari fans can still hope that their team triumphs. Although the gap was large at three and a half tenths of a second. On the one hand there is the penalty against the Red Bull drivers for unauthorized engine changes. That makes a pole position for Leclerc very likely. And the runner-up knew where he was losing time on his main rivals.
The Monegasse struggles with the steering behavior in the first Lesmo curve. "We have to work on that. The other corners fit. I know how to get faster." On top of that, Leclerc did not manage the best lap personally on the first attempt.In the first attack on the soft tires he misbraked in the second chicane.
The teammates couldn't keep up. Sergio Perez was already six tenths behind Verstappen. Sainz followed in fourth, 0.645 seconds back. An investigation is underway against the Spaniard for loitering in the first corner. That's why Valtteri Bottas almost ran into him in the braking zone. The Finn was just able to steer his Alfa Romeo past the rear of the Ferrari. However, Sainz could easily cope with another penalty. After replacing various drive parts, he starts from far behind anyway.
Mercedes is following
There was a gap behind the top dogs. The midfield, on the other hand, was tightly packed. Fernando Alonso grabbed fifth place. Chaser Lando Norris lost by just 13 thousandths. McLaren can keep up with Alpine for one lap. The tires hide the weaknesses of the papaya racing car. In the long run, however, Alpine had the upper hand with Alonso on Friday.
Mercedes followed on training Friday. There was a lack of grip on the rear axle. The drivers complained about a lack of stability. In the third practice session, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton did not progress either. On the contrary. In addition to a McLaren, an Alpine slipped through them. Russell sorted himself only in seventh place. The gap of 1.1 seconds is reminiscent of Belgium.
Five-time Monza winner Lewis Hamilton was behind his team-mate for the third time in the third comparison. The Formula 1 record winner also had to let Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon pass. Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin are still stuck in the backfield. The green car obviously lacks everything: grip and good balance.
It just doesn't want to work for Mick Schumacher. Nine laps on Friday were followed by just seven in Saturday's practice session. A control unit went on strike yesterday. Today it was the clutch. The Haas mechanics did not discover the problem until they started the new engine. Schumacher was therefore only represented on the piste for the last ten minutes. Maybe the glitches are easier to deal with because Monza is Haas' worst track this year anyway.
Lots of new engines
It's a weekend full of penalties. The teams change even more engines and drive components than in Spa. At that time it had caught seven drivers. There are now nine drivers in Monza, almost half the field. The latest to join the orgy of penalties is Alpine rider Esteban Ocon.
The mechanics install the fifth engine for him. This means that Ocon falls back five positions on the starting grid on Sunday. The other drivers with penal transfers are Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Yuki Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas, Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen.It will be fun to determine the starting line-up later. Nobody sees through, not even the teams themselves. The confusion arises because different numbers of drive modules are exchanged. It seems certain that Hamilton, Sainz and Tsunoda will end up in the last three places.