Tip-toeing around a damp track that caught-out several drivers, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc picked up where he left off in Belgium with a P1 in first practice at Monza on Friday.
Leading the way with a time of 1:27.905, Leclerc’s late charge on medium tyres was good enough to top the timesheets in a difficult session that offered little in the way of meaningful running, with a track that was still showing the after-effects of some earlier torrential showers.
Indeed, the most significant takeaway from the session will be the effect it has on two teams’ repair bill, with the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen and the Racing Point of Sergio Perez both finding themselves in the barriers.
Aside from Raikkonen and Perez, several other drivers were lucky not to share their fate, with the standing water at turn one in particular producing its fair share of offs.
With the conditions precarious as they were, the top teams mostly opted to play it safe, which in turn produced a top-10 that was much more mixed-up than usual. Behind Leclerc, the McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris managed to snare second and third respectively, having done the best job of any team to get their cars out on slicks in the final stages.
Lewis Hamilton, whose own late charge on softs was held up by traffic, could only manage P4 in his Mercedes, 0.825 seconds down on Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Behind Hamilton was the Red Bull of Alexander Albon, his 1:29.025 good enough to beat both his old teammate Daniil Kvyat in P6, and his new one Max Verstappen in P7.
Sebastian Vettel ended the session eighth in the sister Ferrari, having shown no interest in matching his teammate’s dry-tyre running.
The Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas was a mere 0.089 seconds behind the German, albeit with his lap being the fastest of all set on wets, and perhaps a sign the W10 will be the car to beat should more rain come on Sunday.
Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10, his 26 laps the most of any driver in the session as he continued the familiarization process after his recent switch back to Toro Rosso.