The Italian GP weekend started with the first free practice session this afternoon, in the temple of speed.
A special weekend, characterized by high speeds and a different program from the usual one, with the Sprint Qualifying, a new format introduced at Silverstone, which will be held this afternoon starting at 18:00 (local time).
No mistakes will be allowed in this particular context and every detail must be meticulously taken care of, because today's Qualifying will decide the starting grid for tomorrow afternoon's Sprint Race, which will outline the starting grid for Sunday's race.
A very close confrontation is expected between Mercedes and Red Bull, with Lewis Hamilton who will definitely want to redeem himself from second place of the Dutch GP, won at home by Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman, thanks to his victory in the Netherlands, has returned to the top of the Driver’s Championship standing, even if the Red Bull driver is not allowed to let his guard down. Hamilton, in fact, already gave pretty clear signals of speed in this first free practice session.
As for Ferrari, on paper it will be a complicated weekend. The characteristics of the layout should not adapt to the SF21, as demonstrated by this first session, but at Silverstone the Maranello team was able to amaze and everyone is wondering how the car will behave in Monza, also with a new front wing to improve aerodynamic efficiency.
14:30 – Green light and already a lot of drivers are out: everyone will try to do as many laps as possible, because, due to the new format, there isn’t going to be a third practice session. Sainz, Leclerc and Verstappen are out with hard tyres, Bottas and Hamilton with mediums.
14:35 - Hamilton is now first with a time of 1'23"634, Perez is behind by 0"636 and Bottas by 0"880. Verstappen is 4th. Now Leclerc is third with a gap of 1”858 from Hamilton.
14:41 - The track is starting to improve, Ocon sets a good lap time with his Alpine and is now in fifth position, in front Leclerc’s Ferrari.
14:45 - Perez approaches Hamilton and is behind just by 0"236, while Verstappen is the best on track with the hard tyres. Vettel is now fourth with his Aston Martin, fifth place for Bottas. Ferrari is working on the long run, but during these first minutes, the red car doesn't seem to adapt well to this track
14:52 – Most of the teams are using smaller wings, to improve the aerodynamics and adapt the cars to a track where most of the race is spent on the straights, even though this choice makes driving a bit more difficult, especially in braking.
14:57 - Perez sets an amazing lap and conqueres the first position. Hamilton is behind by 0″135 and Verstappen is third with a gap of 0″444.
15:02 - Ferrari seems to be improving, Leclerc is now second, but is penalized for passing the track limits. Ricciardo is fourth. Good lap for Giovinazzi, now seventh.
15:05 – Ricciardo puts his MCL35 at the top, his teammate is now 3rd behind Gasly’s AlphaTauri.
15.11 - Verstappen takes the lead with soft tyres, with a time of 1'21"378, Bottas is second with mediums. Immediately Hamilton steals the scene and sets the best time in 1’20″926.
15:22 – Stroll sets a good lap time and puts his Aston Martin in 4th position, behind him Pierre Gasly and his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Ocon had to abort his lap, due to the traffic caused by Lewis Hamilton.
15:30 - End of the session. A very strong Mercedes, but Verstappen doesn't give up.