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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 author at Monza
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc edged Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes to establish time in a practice in the Italian Grand Prix.
Leclerc, fresh from his maiden triumph in Belgium, was 0.068 seconds quicker than Hamilton. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has been 0.201secs off the pace.
The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was from the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon.
Rain created competitiveness harder to read than normal.
The changeable weather meant the teams conducted their sessions to various timetables, Ferrari and Red Bull cramming within their qualifying simulation laps before the rain shower, Mercedes preferring to wait till it had passed.
That meant an off-set in the later prep, on which Mercedes appeared to get an edge but on that Ferrari may have been influenced by a damper track for the start of their runs.
Nevertheless, the cars’ operation pattern seemed as expected with Ferrari having an edge on a lap but Mercedes quicker over a longer term.
That is exactly the pattern seen in Belgium, in which Leclerc took rod but won the race having a charging Hamilton right in his tail.
One of the six, a noteworthy performance was from Albon.
In only his second race for Red Bull after his promotion from Toro Rosso, he was a creditable 0.239secs slower than Verstappen, that will start this weekend from the rear of the grid as a result of a punishment for using a lot of motors.
That’s also the case for Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, that was seventh quickest, while an oil leak was fixed by McLaren after missing the first half of this session, and McLaren’s Lando Norris, that ended up 18th.
Behind Gasly, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, the Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and the second Renault of Nico Hulkenberg finished the top 10.
There were off-track minutes and several spins, but no mishaps, unlike the session, when both Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Racing Point Sergio Perez had crashes.
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