As expected, it was a wet practice that opened the long-awaited Italian Grand Prix weekend, track temperature settling down to 20°C. Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg, drivers expected to suffer the ‘Temple of Speed’s layout this weekend, were the first to exit the pit-lane alongside Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and McLaren talent Lando Norris. Ricciardo immediately regretted said choice as he was found crawling around the track, his engine struggling for juice on the very first lap. The first time set was Hülkenberg’s 1:38.567, followed by Carlos Sainz 1.3 seconds apart. Then came the home heroes, Kimi Räikkönen slotting into third and Sebastian Vettel stealing the top with a 1:37.867 with one hour left to run, a time when only those four drivers had already completed a laptime. As Sainz was the first to take advantage of Intermediate tyres and improved to 36.9, Ricciardo headed back out with initial problems fixed to set a 38.6, while his teammate had a considerable scare outside Parabolica but managed to keep things tidy with a typical 'Verstappen save'.
In spite of poor expectations for FP1, action came as the whole field joined the track with 50 minutes to go, Valtteri Bottas lacking 2 tenths to Sainz’s effort on his first couple of attempts and Lewis Hamilton topping the leaderboard thanks to a 36.5. That all took place while Vettel’s SF71H was sitting in the garage disassembled, undergoing a careful gearbox replacement by its mechanics due to an oil leak which forced the championship runner-up out of the session.
A little later, Charles Leclerc was able to climb up to 3rd place, giving up 4 tenths to Bottas’ provisional best lap of 1:36.2, while last weekend's protagonists of Force India stole 4th and 5th place 0.6 seconds away.
Half an hour to the checkers, Verstappen made good use of rainmaster skills and a drying surface to lift the timing bar up to 1:35.665, while his Australian garage-mate was yet to get to grips with the situation down in 12th place. Renault was soon back within half a second of the leader thanks to a couple of laps worth of 2nd and 3rd place for Sainz and Hülkenberg, both subsequently demoted by Gasly and Ricciardo running in the 35.8s.
Toro Rosso showed flashes of their 2008 triumph when none other than Brendon Hartley took the top of the timesheet with a 35.0, but that of course was all due to the drying track and it was quickly bettered by Räikkönen’s 34.5 and Ocon’s 34.6, Sergio Perez stealing the show right at the death to gift newly-named Racing Point Force India their first ever overall lead.