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Monza Friday Report: Who Looks Quickest at the Temple of Speed?

Written by Traber Burns, Edited by Apostolos Papageorgiou


Practice got underway at the home of the tifosi and with the alternate tyre allocation this weekend, many expected limited running as teams would be trying their best to save them. This was not the case. The session didn’t look too different from any other we’ve seen so far this season. As always with Monza, everyone was chasing the balance with the low drag setups, so teams were eager to get on track, many of them opting to set up the car differently for each driver. With the long straights, there was also a little more porpoising than what we’ve seen in recent weeks, but the differences between each team in that regard weren’t drastic. Another thing to note is that the difference in one lap pace between the different compounds isn’t big, but the soft tyre has been straining the rear side walls, causing a lot of rear instability under braking and with heavy fuel. The wear is also a concern. We’ll see how that plays out during the rest of the weekend.


Red Bull

The top three appear to be Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren, with Verstappen in FP1 and Sainz in FP2 taking the top spot respectively. The Red Bulls had a fairly run of the mill FP1, with Verstappen topping the board and Perez 0.177 seconds off in third. The drivers were running very different wing settings during first practice, with the Dutchman running higher downforce than his teammate. For FP2, Max used lower downforce front and rear wing settings, similar to Checo. Unfortunately we were robbed of a true comparison between the teammates in the afternoon session, as Verstappen’s qualifying run was slightly hindered by traffic. Assuming the fuel levels were equal, the Red Bull No1 does seem to have a tenth or two a lap during race runs. With ten minutes left in the session, Red Bull’s metaphorical smooth Friday cruise hit a bump in the road when Perez went off in Parabolica. The spin resulted in a touch with the barrier, causing light damage to the rear wing and bringing out a red flag for the stuck RB19. Hopefully the Mexican can turn around his fortunes come tomorrow.


Ferrari

It’s not just the special livery that’s looking good for the Ferraris, it’s also their pace. The Scuderia showed that they could bring the fight to the Red Bulls, with Sainz’s best time only five-hundredths off Verstappen’s 1:22.657 in FP1, before the Spaniard topped the board in FP2. He had good pace over his teammate as well, but differences in setups may have an influence in that. Leclerc did have an odd moment when a small plume of smoke came from the back of the car while coming down the pitlane. This could be a minor issue, but it’s something to keep in mind, should more reliability questions arise. On the positive side, Sainz’s race run was pretty close to both the Red Bulls in FP1, especially considering all three cars were on the same compound.

Credit: F1.com

McLaren

While FP1 may have looked a little lackluster, the Papaya cars joined the bulls and prancing horses by the end of the afternoon, with Norris and Piastri getting second and fourth respectfully. An interesting note is that while most teams ran race runs with the hard tyre in FP1 and the medium tyre in FP2, McLaren did it differently. Both drivers ran softs in the morning, with the Woking team putting Piastri on hards and Norris on mediums for the long runs. This could just be for data collection, but McLaren may be looking at a split or alternate strategy on Sunday.


Mercedes

It was a tale of two halves for the Silver Arrows on Friday. The draggy Mercedes had George Russell in the lower positions of the top ten, which is somewhat expected with the car's characteristics. Lewis Hamilton had a dreaded day, calling for wholesale changes in FP2 after finding out he was six tenths behind his teammate. This has been a trend with Mercedes in the past few years. It usually takes them some time to dial in the setup. While getting both cars in the points is still quite possible, seeing either car joining the top six on pure speed is unexpected, to say the least.


Aston Martin

Alonso had a smooth day, with his pace seeming to be just outside of the top six, slightly above the Mercedes. It was a different story on the other side of the garage. Felipe Drugovich hopped in for FP1 and had a successfully uneventful day. Unfortunately for Lance Stroll, his first lap on track resulted in a mechanical failure. The team said it was a fuel system failure, but there could be some electronic and/or hydraulic issues at play, as Stroll was unable to downshift going into Ascari. In any case, the Canadian will be on the back foot tomorrow, having completed absolutely no laps, as the season continues to be a struggle for him.

Credit: F1.com

Williams

The long straights and low downforce setups should play perfectly into the hands of Williams and Albon showed glimpses of this pace during the day. He did make one mistake through Ascari, running wide into the gravel, once again showing the team’s problem with rear stability. Logan Sargeant was also noticeably struggling with the same issue, especially on the soft tyres. On a more concerning note, the American was consistently over half a second down on Albon’s lap time. It’s important to point out that Sargeant was running a very different wing setup to the Thai driver, so the gap might close come Saturday. With Monza being the last European circuit on the calendar and therefore the last track he knows well, the rookie really needs a good showing if he’s going to keep his seat for next season.


Alpine

It’s been a tough day on the timing screens for Alpine, though some engine mode trickery could be at play. They’ve shown decent straight line speed at Spa and Silverstone, but were just not very noteworthy today. Both drivers complained of bottoming, so it remains to be seen if they can dial in the setup tomorrow.


Alfa Romeo

While Alfa’s special livery may look amazing, their Friday did not. The Italian outfit had anti-stall issues at the start of FP1. When they did get out on track, both drivers reported a lot of bottoming, causing them to lose more time changing the setup. While second practice saw more laps turned, their pace was nowhere. Bottas set a lap good enough for 12th, though it was done with 15 minutes left in the session, at which point the track had gotten faster thanks to track evolution and most drivers were doing their race runs. It’s not looking like a good weekend for the men and women in black.

Credit: F1.com

Alpha Tauri

Alpha Tauri’s pace was all over the place. At some points, they looked to be top ten contenders, while at others they were outside the top 15. One thing to note is that Liam Lawson’s lap times are inching closer to Yuki Tsunoda, which may end up pressuring the Japanese driver. While Yuki has had a great season so far, De Vries didn’t challenge him very often. When Yuki’s teammate battle was with Gasly, he made a lot more mistakes, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles it this time around.


Haas

The American team spent a lot of time in the garage tinkering with their setups today. A lot like Alpine, they seem to go up and down the board, from below top 15 to just inside the top ten, but it's unlikely this has anything to do with engine modes. The American team’s biggest problem has been tyre wear and with Pirelli bringing the softest tyre sets this weekend, that’s unlikely to change. They might be able to pull out a Q2 appearance, but anything above that would certainly be a surprise.

Credit: F1. com

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