Monza FP1: Verstappen fastest, Sainz chases

Monza FP1: Verstappen fastest, Sainz chases

Monza FP1: Verstappen fastest, Sainz chases

Max Verstappen topped the first practice session for the 2023 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz a close second.

It was one of those sessions that could not give a clear idea on the pecking order, except for Red Bull and Verstappen of course, as the “Alternative Tyre Allocation” qualifying trial meant less tyres available to each driver, hence different running programs.

Other than that, the session was pretty uneventful and ended with double Formula 1 Champion Verstappen leading the pack on Hard tyres with Sainz a close second, while Sergio Perez was third fastest.

It is anyone’s guess if Ferrari can maintain the pace, but at least the Tifosi would be smiling after FP1.

Buildup towards FP1

It’s been less than one week since we left Zandvoort behind, where Verstappen took his ninth consecutive win this season and equaled Sebastian Vettel’s record from 2013.

And pretty fast, the talk was about the Dutchman breaking the record this weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza where the 2023 Italian Grand Prix is taking place.

It is the first time this year that F1 lands in Italy after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix earlier in the season was cancelled due to the floods that hit the northern Italian region.

The weather is expected to behave this weekend with no rain forecasted so far, something Verstappen seemed to be happy about, as he looks to secure his tenth win this weekend.

Other than that, the big news was Lewis Hamilton finally extending his stay at Mercedes, no surprise there to be honest, he is still in top form to keep racing, and Mercedes is currently his best option despite their slump, and the money is good…

It’s Ferrari’s home race, but unless the special Yellow livery the Scuderia are running this weekend miraculously gives them some speed, the Tifosi are set to be disappointed once again.

Fernando Alonso was back on the podium last weekend, so will he be able to repeat that? What of McLaren? They have the speed but messed up at Zandvoort.

As for Mercedes, it depends on the mood their W14 will be in this weekend, although its draggy nature will not help around the Monza straights, which in theory should suit their customer team Williams with their slippery FW45, especially with the impressive Alex Albon at the wheel.

As for the tyres this weekend, Pirelli has brought their softest range of tyres, C3 (Hard), C4 (Medium), and C5 (Soft).

Also worth mentioning that this weekend will feature the second tyre of the “Alternative Tyre Allocation” qualifying that was tested at the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.

Basically the teams are restricted to tyre choices during qualifying; Hard for Q1, Medium for Q2, and Soft only in Q3, as each driver gets 11 sets of Pirelli rubber instead of 13.

Monza FP1 session highlights

While Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have one-off liveries to celebrate their home races, all the teams have brought track specific updates, low drag rear wings and other drag-reducing components as they look to boost their top speeds around the Temple of Speed.

Notably, a familiar face was seen around the Monza paddock, a certain Mattia Binotto was there, mixing business with pleasure?

As a reminder, Binotto has been linked with Alpine after the French team fired their CEO Laurent Rossi, Team Boss Otmar Szafnauer, and Sporting Director Alan Permane before the summer break.

At Aston Martin, reserve driver Felipe Drugovich replaced Lance Stroll for the first practice session while Alonso remained on duty in the sister car.

The Alfa Romeos had a bad start to their session as Zhou Guanyu had an issues at the end of the pitlane and was wheeled back to the garages while Valtteri Bottas also seemed to suffer a similar issue, reportedly an anti-stall issue.

Almost half an hour intro the session, both Williams cars make their way onto the circuit, and while Bottas heads out on track he reports problems.

“Something is wrong with the rear end in the medium and high speed. There is zero grip. It feels like something is stalling,” he reported over the team radio.

Bottas labels his car “undrivable” and boxes, while Zhou was complaining about bottoming on his Alfa.

Verstappen on the other hand seemed to be struggling with his helmet, he said: “I’m getting way too much helmet lift.”

Albon had a moment at Turn 10, he exit of Ascari with a brief off-road moment, but makes it back to the pits in one piece.

Ferrari had new power units on both their cars, the final one before getting a penalty, which was also the case for George Russell, Bottas, as well as Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri.

The alternative tyre strategy meant the usual running programs do not apply, while big teams, Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes ran on set of Hards.

With 11 minutes remaining, Bottas finally had some good news for his team, when asked if the car felt better, his answer was : “Yes, better.”

In the final part of the session, the drivers set out on some long runs with heavy fuel loads, and FP1 was concluded with practice starts.

How they finished

Verstappen clocked a 1:22.657 to go fastest in FP1, with Sainz giving the Tifosi some early hope, second fastest and just 0.046s off the pace.

Perez was third fastest in the other Red Bull, 0.177s off the pace of his teammate, and 0.132s ahead of Leclerc who was fourth in the second Ferrari.

Russell went fifth fastest for Mercedes, over half a second slower than Verstappen, and was 0.025s faster than Alonso, sixth fastest in the Aston Martin.

Lando Norris’ 1:23.241 was good enough for seventh fastest, the McLaren driver 0.028s faster than compatriot Hamilton, who was eighth fastest in the Mercedes.

Tsunoda was ninth fastest with Albon 0.173s behind him in tenth.

FP1 session results