FP2: Leclerc edges Hamilton by just 0.068s in Italy
Charles Leclerc set the fastest lap of the second free practice session at Ferrari’s home track of Monza, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finishing a close second, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, to deny the Scuderia a 1-2 on Friday.
As the threat of rain lingered, Mercedes wasted no time in gathering medium-tyre data, on which Hamilton set the pace with a lap of 1m 21.972s, Bottas just 0.073s slower.
Leclerc began the session on hard tyres, switching to softs after 20 minutes with a flying lap of 1m 20.978s propelling him to the top of the leaderboard. Vettel was 0.201s slower, and eventually ended the session in P3.
Then the rain materialised, sending drivers back to the shelter of the garage after 30 minutes. A brief red flag let marshals safely clear gravel around the second chicane and the rain rescinded, downgrading to a drizzle.
Gradually, the drivers filed back out and gingerly tackled the slippery surface, initially shunning slick tyres. Hamilton and team mate Bottas went on to toy with the tow on soft tyres, Hamilton slipstreaming behind the Finn to set a lap just 0.068s slower than Leclerc’s – a possible rehearsal for qualifying on Saturday.
Bottas was narrowly faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who took his RB15, with its slimline rear-wing and Spec 4 Honda power unit to fifth. Three-tenths away followed his team mate Alex Albon, while Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was another 0.5s down.
The midfield was muddled due to the range of set-ups used in FP2. Just 0.029s behind Gasly was Haas’s Romain Grosjean, and rounding out the top 10 were Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Gasly’s team mate Daniil Kvyat.
Lando Norris, 18th and 2.583s back, was stuck in the garage for much of the session due to an oil leak. He was only able to emerge with 15 minutes remaining, but the rest of the grid will also go into FP3 with less data than they’d like thanks to Friday’s fragmented pair of practice sessions.
And that could make qualifying a rather unpredictable and exciting affair on Saturday.