F1 Italian Grand Prix: Sainz maintains the lead in final practice

In front of the tifosi, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz won the third and final practice session for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, beating off Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

(Motorsports news) Due to the ATA, or alternative tyre allocation, in effect for this weekend’s Italian F1, Saturday’s FP3 was made more exciting and significant. Teams are required to use all three compounds throughout the three qualifying stages and were given two less sets of tyres from Pirelli. This required them to think about using the hard and medium tyres in their simulations of soft-tyre qualifying in order to get ready for Q1 and Q2, respectively.

That division was most pronounced between the F1’s top teams, who almost completely concentrated on soft-tyre pace for Q3, and the midfield teams, who were less certain of their abilities to survive Q1 and consequently paid more attention to running on harder tyres. Lando Norris of McLaren had the early soft tyre lead, beating off Ferrari’s Sainz and Sergio Perez of Red Bull.

Verstappen, the unchallenged leader of the championship, quickly destroyed that time by breaking the 1m22 barrier with a first attempt of 1m21.838s. Perez came in second ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. Verstappen subsequently lowered his own benchmark to a 1m21.687s after 15 minutes.

These times stayed constant until just before the halfway point, when Kevin Magnussen, driving a medium-shod Haas and finishing between Perez and Hamilton, signaled the F1 track at Monza was becoming quicker and faster. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso impressed among the cars starting on harsher compounds with a time of 1m22.690s on hard tyres, just one second behind Verstappen.

At the halfway point, Alex Albon demonstrated evidence of Williams’ low drag capability by finishing second on the medium tyres with a lap time of 1m22.114s, four tenths behind Verstappen’s fastest time, and then improving slightly on the hard tyres. With 15 minutes left, Mercedes once more caused lap times to drop, with Hamilton’s time of 1m21.453s temporarily ahead of teammate George Russell.

Seventh and eighth place went to the Haas team’s Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, with Alonso and Perez rounding out the top 10. After doing his first laps of the weekend, Lance Stroll of Aston Martin was in 11th place. Felipe Drugovich’s first practice run on Friday was in Felipe Stroll’s AMR23 before a fuel system failure stopped him from finishing more than half a lap in practice two. The decision to swap out the Canadian’s power unit required the squad to violate the curfew.

Liam Lawson, the replacement for Daniel Ricciardo for AlphaTauri in F1 2023, finished 12th and was the fastest of the runners on medium tires, beating out teammate Yuki Tsunoda. The first McLaren to cross the finish line was Oscar Piastri in position 14, followed by Logan Sargeant for Williams, Valtteri Bottas for Alfa Romeo, and Norris for his team.

After a low-key practice for Alpine, Esteban Ocon placed 18th on hards, ahead of Zhou Guanyu and teammate Pierre Gasly. Alonso hinted on the team radio that the drivers that slowed him down on his hotlap “will have a bad surprise in qualifying,” alluding to race control’s tougher application of minimum times on out-laps, which might result in traffic congestion.

Norris was also severely slowed down after narrowly missing slower traffic exiting the Lesmos. Other than the occasional off-course detour, the practice ended without any significant mishaps. Piastri’s twitch into the second chicane, which spit the Australian out through the gravel, was the most noticeable error.

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