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Monza FP3: Sainz maintains the momentum

Carlos Sainz continued his strong form at the 2023 Italian Grand Prix weekend, topping the final practice session ahead of qualifying.

Ferrari seem to be the real deal as their show of speed continued into Saturday at Monza with Carlos Sainz being the faster of their drivers.

The situation was a bit different in FP3 and the times were more comparable with the teams doing qualifying runs on fresh Soft tyres towards the end of the session, with Sainz emerging as the fastest, while Max Verstappen in the Red Bull behind in second by the slightest of margins.

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Mercedes seemed to have picked up the pace with Lewis Hamilton going third fastest following a confusing Friday for the eight-time Formula 1 World Champions.

This sets the stage for an exciting qualifying, as Ferrari aim for a strong result at their home race, while Verstappen will be hell bent on getting pole and put himself in the best position to win his tenth consecutive race this season.

Buildup towards FP3

Friday carried some hope for the Tifosi, as Sainz topped FP2, while he was only 0.046s off Verstappen in FP1, but it will not take us long to find out whether their pace is for real, as qualifying will show us if the Scuderia are actually fast or were just doing some glory runs in the first two practice sessions.

But it’s smart to keep in mind that Verstappen did not get a clean run on Soft tyres in FP2 and was denied another run by the team to save tyres, which is the name of the game as F1 trials the “Alternative Tyre Allocation” at Monza, for the second time this season, with limited number of tyre sets available for all drivers.

While Ferrari seem ahead of the pack chasing Red Bull, Mercedes are a bit of an unknown, while McLaren seem in decent shape despite Lando Norris warning that does not reflect the true picture, while Aston Martin do not seem to be as competitive as they have shown in Zandvoort.

Another issue clear from Friday was the traffic with many drivers driving around slowly on the track waiting to pick up a tow from others, which was quite frustrating for their rivals, while we have seen before that qualifying around Monza can be a joke, the 2019 session when Leclerc snatched pole still a clear example.

But the FIA has moved to try and control this mess as they set a limit on how slow the drivers can drive around the track, below which they will be penalized.

Race Director Niels Wittich revised his race notes that now stated: “4.2 For the safe and orderly conduct of the Event, other than in exceptional circumstances accepted as such by the Stewards, any driver that exceeds 1min 41sec from the Second Safety Car Line to the First Safety Car Line on ANY lap during and after the end of the qualifying session, including in-laps and out-laps, may be deemed to be going unnecessarily slowly.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this does not supersede Art. 33.4 and Art. 37.5 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations, which apply to the entire Circuit. Incidents will normally be investigated after the qualifying session,” Wittich added.

Monza FP3 session highlights

FP3 started in clear conditions, with track temperatures at 38 degrees while ambient temperatures were 26 degrees.

Used tyres from Friday were the order of the day, with10 cars on Softs, a couple on Hards, and six on Mediums while two cars – Oscar Piastri and Alex Albon – remained in the garage, but later joined on Softs.

Norris had some flow vis on the rear wing of his McLaren MCL60 as the team looked to understand the low-downforce package they brought to Monza.

Hamilton, ten minutes into the session, was on a flying lap but locked up his front right tyre going into Turn 1 and had to take a shortcut. No damage done though. The Briton soon set the third fastest time 15 minutes into the session.

Yuki Tsunoda had a close moment with Sainz who was going slowly around Curva Grande, the Japanese expressing his discontent with some colorful language.

Monza poses a special challenge for the teams, as they run skinny wings to boost their top speed, which makes dealing with the few corners quite tricky, especially in terms of adjusting the ride height to deal with the kerbs as well as the bouncing various cars suffered from on Friday.

As an insight into Mercedes’ situation at Monza, the team ran different setups on Friday for Hamilton and Russell, with the team’s reserve Mick Schumacher spending Friday night assessing each of them in the team’s simulator, but it seems Mercedes have report to Formula 1’s Official Website that they do not have answer as to justify the difference between the two setups.

As a reminder, Hamilton was losing 5kph on the straights compared to George Russell on Friday.

Logan Sargeant reported that he broke his left mirror, as replays showed he ran wide and dipping into the gravel which shot threw his mirror.

Nico Hulkenberg had a huge lockup at Turn 1 while on a new set of Soft tyres for a qualifying run while Norris almost had a crash with the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, for which the Chinese was given a Black and White flag.

“Why are people so stupid,” Norris complains over the team radio. “Why can’t they look in the mirrors?”

Piastri, on a qualifying run on Medium tyres, lost control of his MCL60 and went wide, into the gravel at Turn 5, after which the team asked him to pit to check the car.

The Australian’s car was checked the team giving him the all clear and was soon back out on track to continue his run.

Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, was unimpressed by the overly slow cars on track… Check out the tweet below…

Towards the final ten minutes of the session, several drivers bolted fresh Soft tyres and set out for some final qualifying runs.

Verstappen posted a lap time almost half a second faster than Hamilton, who was informed of the difference by the team, to which he responded: “I don’t know how to find that half a second.”

In the meantime, Sergio Perez’s car was being taken apart by the mechanics and he was out of it, as it was reported that his RB19 developed a leak, while Bottas had a off road excursion at the Ascari chicane.

Replay showed Charles Leclerc going wide and hard over the kerbs at the second Lismo while on a fast lap, he back off and goes again later but was only good for fourth.

In the meantime, Sainz was given a Black and White flag for impeding McLaren’s Piastri.

How they finished

Sainz posted a 1:20.912 to go fastest of all in the final practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, 0.086s faster than Verstappen in second, while Hamilton was over half a second off the pace in third.

Leclerc was playing catchup with Sainz all session long and ended up being fourth fastest. 0.574s off the pace of his teammate, while Alonso was 0.225s further down the road in fifth.

Russell was sixth for Mercedes with a 1:21.730 while Kevin Magnussen was 0.154s behind the Briton, seventh fastest for Haas.

Hulkenberg was eighth fastest in the other Haas, 0.101s behind his teammate while Albon was in ninth place, 0.069s behind the German and ahead of Perez in tenth.

FP3 session results

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