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Italian GP 2018

AUGUST 31, 2018

Practice 1 Report - The Rain Game

Serio Perez, Italian GP 2018
© RV Press

By Dan Knutson

Rain was the name of the game on Friday at Monza and free Practice 1 for the Italian Grand Prix. Heavy rain earlier in the morning, and another shower as the first practice began, left the track soaked. But that is not to say the drivers stayed in the garages as all of them turned laps. And the track started to dry in the last half hour. Fastest of all in the wet was Force India driver Sergio Perez.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Racing Point Force India Mercedes - Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes -Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz; Toro Rosso Honda - Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; McLaren Renault - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc.

In FP1 Lando Norris drove Vandoorne's McLaren.

The 11-turn 3.599-mile (5.793 km) Autodromo Nazionale Monza is all about speed.

"It is the fastest track of the year," Gasly said. "The engineers tell me that with DRS and slipstreaming we should be doing over 360 km/h (224 mph). It's going to be an incredible feeling rushing down the straights and then coming to the very heavy braking areas. You really have a sensation of speed and that's one of the things that make this circuit special. We will have a low downforce aero package compared to normal and that means we will be sliding a bit more, which is fine, as the key at Monza is to be fast down the straights.

"You spend almost 80 percent of the lap flat out so it's important not to lose speed through the chicanes, which means doing a good job of riding the curbs and then having good traction out of the corners."

All the teams had low downforce packages on their cars that were designed specifically for Monza.

But that is in dry conditions.

Pirelli's slick tire options for the weekend were the same as Spa the weekend before: medium, soft, super soft and ultra soft. But rain tires - the intermediates and extreme wets - were in use in FP1.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 71 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Centigrade).

Waiting at the end of pit lane were Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. Ricciardo's car was fitted with the latest spec Renault engines, and the team was anxious to check it out before the rain increased. Things did not start well.

"I've got a problem." Ricciardo radioed as he drove slowly back to the pits on his out lap. "I've got no power."

Ricciardo had the new C spec engine while Verstappen had the older B spec. Red Bull's plan was to assess both power units during practice and then decide which to use for the race.

Fortunately, it was only a software issue on Ricciardo's car, so it was an easy fix for the Renault technicians.

Only Hulkenberg recorded a lap time in the opening 20 minutes - a 1:38:567.

Both Hulkenberg and Ricciardo would get grid penalties in the race. The former 10 places for causing the accident at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, and the latter for using a new power unit. But then came the news that Hulkenberg would be getting a new engine penalty as well.

Just before the half hour mark Vettel clocked a 1:37.867 running on the full wets. Sainz beat that with a 1:37.424 followed by a 1:36.995.

And Ricciardo was back on track. "At the moment it seems okay," he said of the new engine.

His teammate Verstappen had a spin/slide at Parabolica. "All good, just a little drift!" Verstappen radioed.

A number of drivers had now sampled the wet track. At the 40-minute mark the top 10 were: Sainz, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Perez, Ericsson and Stroll.

Shortly thereafter Hamilton went from last to first with a lap of 1:36.546 on the inters. Then Bottas, also on the inters, beat that with a 1:36.238.

Missing from the on-track action was Vettel whose Ferrari was getting a new gearbox in the garage.

The track was starting to dry in places as FP1 moved into the final 30 minutes.

That drying track created faster lap times. Verstappen now led with his 1:35.665.

But, with less than 10 minutes remaining, Hartley beat that with a 1:35.024 as Ricciardo moved into second and Gasly third.

Just three minutes were left in the session when Raikkonen thrilled the tifosi by topping the times with a 1:34.742 followed by a 1:34.550.

Then in the final seconds Perez posted a 1:34.000.

The top 10 at the end of the rain game FP1 were: Perez, Raikkonen, Ocon, Hartley, Ricciardo, Gasly, Verstappen, Sainz, Hulkenberg and Bottas.