Charles Leclerc topped a rain-affected first practice for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix that was interrupted by red flags on three occasions.
Leclerc, who last weekend in Belgium became Ferrari’s youngest grand prix winner, claimed top at the end of the damp session as the field moves to slick tyres at the end of the session. The Monegasque driver set a best time of 1:27.905 to beat McLaren’s Carlos Sainz by three tenths of a second, with the Spanish driver a further two tenths ahead of team-mate Lando Norris.
Following heavy overnight rain and drizzle this morning the session featured a brief early period on full wet tyres before the field quickly moved to intermediate rubber. Around half an hour into the session running was halted for the first time when Kimi Räikkönen beached his Alfa Romeo in the gravel traps at Parabolica.
However, the second delay arrived moments after the green flags had been shown for the re-start. This time it was Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez who was caught out by the conditions. The Mexican driver lost control of his car through the Ascari Chicane and he slid off backwards into the barriers. The impact flipped him round and he also damaged the front left side of the car.
After a period of improvement for many drivers on a drying track, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly then caused a final brief red flag spell when he became stranded on a kerb at the first Rettifilo chicane. With the aid or mashals the Frenchman was able to get going again, however, and thus the halt was a brief one.
In the final phase of the session, with conditions steadily improving, the times began to tumble with Leclerc and the McLaren driver posting their time at the very end of the session.
That left fourth place to Lewis Hamilton who set a time eight tenths of a second slower than Leclerc’s late slick tyre lap. Fifth place went to Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon with former Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat. The Russian briefly claimed top spot with his time of 1:29.960 in the final two minutes of the session but the rapidly improving conditions saw his eventually beaten by more than two seconds as the leading drivers in the session all made large gains in the final flurry.
Max Verstappen finished seventh in the second Red Bull, ahead of the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, while Valtteri Bottas took ninth for Mercedes ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Gasly who ended the session 2.790s off Leclerc’s P1 time.
2019 FIA Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 20 1:27.905
2 Carlos Sainz McLaren 25 1:28.211 0.306
3 Lando Norris McLaren 23 1:28.450 0.545
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 11 1:28.730 0.825
5 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing19 1:29.025 1.120
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 25 1:29.960 2.055
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 11 1:30.10 2.195
8 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:30.507 2.602
9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 11 1:30.596 2.691
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 26 1:30.695 2.790
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 22 1:32.848 4.943
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point Racing Point 9 1:33.976 6.071
13 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 10 1:34.528 6.623
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 7 1:34.715 6.810
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 10 1:35.133 7.228
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 7 1:35.980 8.075
17 Robert Kubica Williams 12 1:37.816 9.911
18 George Russell Williams 12 1:38.421 10.516
19 Sergio Perez Racing Point 4
20 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing 4