The Italian Grand Prix will take place at the Monza circuit this weekend, using an alternative tire format. As a result, the normal weekend schedule was thrown upside down, while the race simulations in the second practice session were cut short due to a red flag caused by Sergio Pérez. The Mexican was on the road quickly until then, while Mercedes was the fastest in the first practice.
Usually the drivers do a race simulation at the end of the second free practice, but on Friday in Monza most of the representative times were already set in the first session. The drivers of Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, and Ferrari chose to run on the hard tires for the entire session, while McLaren driver Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, as well as Williams driver Alexander Albon, drove on the soft tyres. Fernando Alonso was the odd one out with the medium tyres.
Verstappen unusually uncompetitive
Where Verstappen usually rules in the race simulations this year, there was little of that in Monza. Although the Dutchman drove the longest race simulation of any driver, he fell short of teammate Pérez by more than two tenths per lap. The Mexican was competitive from start to finish on his 11-lap long run, but was still not the fastest driver on the hard tyres, as Table 1 shows.
Those were the Mercedes drivers, who both clocked seven laps. Significantly less so than the Red Bull duo, but given the tire wear on the hard tyre, there seems to be little decay over time. The fuel level and the amount of power is of course unknown. In addition to George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz was also faster on his birthday than the Red Bull drivers, who did keep Charles Leclerc behind. However, the Monegask only completed four laps, and clearly struggled to get the temperature in the tires at the start of that stint.
Remarkably enough, Alexander Albon recorded the best average of the drivers on the soft tyres. The British Thai was the only 25’er on the soft rubber, and was more than two tenths faster than Lando Norris, who performed even better over one lap in the first free practice. Oscar Piastri was having a hard time, and also faced a big deficit compared to his teammate. Alonso had no comparison material, but his high 26ers seem to promise little good.
Verstappen also on the mediums behind Pérez
In the second free practice, all the more competitive drivers drove on the medium rubber in their race simulation, but most drivers failed to do so. Pérez caused a red flag, and was so responsible that Albon, Leclerc, Norris, and Russell, among others, could only record one lap time before they had to pit. Pérez, Verstappen, Sainz, and Hamilton drove several laps, with Hamilton being remarkably slow this time. The Briton often complained about a bad balance. Red Bull was faster than Carlos Sainz this time, but Verstappen was still one and a half tenths short of his teammate. The Dutchman therefore does not seem to be sure of his case yet.
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