Ferrari buoyed by Friday unveiling but Verstappen’s race pace will cause concern RaceFans

Announcement | Become a follower of RaceFans and go ad-free

With the two world championship titles all but mathematically decided, the main intrigue heading into the final seven rounds of the 2022 season is whether anyone can stop Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s run of consecutive wins: Zandvoort was the fourth in a row.

As in Belgium, the first weekend of the triple header race that kicks off the second stage of the championship, Red Bull has chosen to handicap the future two-time world champion with a grid penalty for using a fifth engine to the power. -Circuit dependent on the calendar. There may only be five spaces on the starting grid rather than a downgrade at the back of the grid like at Spa, but the guarantee that Verstappen won’t be on the front row is an opportunity that Ferrari and Red are unlikely to take. Bull have again. this year.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monza, 2022
Red Bull’s race pace was ominous for Ferrari

Fortunately for the thousands of Ferrari fans who will arrive at Monza with the same uninhibited fever as always, they had every reason to go home happy on Friday with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. each finishing one of the two practice sessions. fastest before the championship. Red Bull leader.

Ferrari being quickest on Friday is not unusual in 2022 and Verstappen has often moved up over the course of the weekend to deny them on Sunday. But as the sun set in the Monza paddock, even Leclerc had to admit the signs were encouraging.

“Honestly, the feeling is good,” said the winner of the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, who finished just under two-tenths of a second slower than his team-mate on Friday. “I am quite, quite happy with the first sensations we had on this track.

“After what happened at Spa, the car is in a similar place, a bit more extreme here, but a similar place to Spa. So we were expecting a bit harder day, but it’s a good first day. Now, we have to take a step forward for tomorrow.”

Leclerc is one of only two drivers from the top three teams who, as things stand, will make it into qualifying on Saturday without suffering a grid penalty. He will genuinely fight for pole position, against his teammate Sainz, the two Red Bulls or Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. But Leclerc is more focused on Sunday than Saturday, and here he too sees reason to be cheerful.

“[Our] The race pace seemed actually stronger than the qualifying pace on my side,” he said. “I was happier with my car with a lot of fuel. So I look good again.”

Despite being limited by another grid start for this weekend, Sainz was at least encouraged by being the quickest driver on Friday.

See also  Three takeaways from ULM Football's 28-21 loss to Coastal Carolina

“I have to say that since FP1, the car has felt in a much better window, in a much better position than where it was at Spa,” he said. “The lap times were easy. The stopwatch doesn’t lie and we were going more and more to the rhythm. So it’s been a nice surprise.”

But in a season where Ferrari has tasted disappointment more often than success at the end of a weekend, Sainz knows full well not to jump ahead when looking at the times at this stage.

Announcement | Become a follower of RaceFans and go ad-free

“I don’t think we are the fastest by any means, especially in the long runs,” he warned. “But at least we are closer than we thought.”

George Russell, Mercedes, Monza, 2022
A front row start looks possible for Russell again

Having won from midfield and even beyond in recent races, the prospect of Verstappen starting no higher than sixth on the grid shouldn’t seem too daunting by comparison. Red Bull naturally focused on their long-term pace, as pole position for Verstappen has become truly impossible with the world champion running a higher downforce setup than his rivals.

“I think the car was pretty good,” said Verstappen. “I only tested a few things for the car from FP1 to FP2 to understand if you could do things better. Some worked, some didn’t. Just general practice on long runs, of course, with the little penalty we get. Everything seems to work quite well.”

While the Ferrari drivers seemed encouraged by the pace they showed in both sessions, Verstappen focused more on his long-run performance in the second practice, and liked what he saw in the data, as he was consistently putting in more laps. faster than anyone in the second practice. medium tires at the end of the session. Is another repeat of his Spa dominance coming up?

“I mean, there are still some things we can do better,” he said, “but of course Monza is not like Spa in terms of track layout.

“Of course it’s low downforce, but we never expected it to be like Spa. But if we can find a way, even if it’s say halfway to Spa, then I think we have a good chance. If you look at the long runs I think we look pretty good and that is of course the most important thing for the race.”

Announcement | Become a follower of RaceFans and go ad-free

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez is a Monza fan. He particularly enjoys making his way around the high-speed Italian track, having won from 14th on the grid in two consecutive British F3 races here and taking an excellent second place for Sauber in 2012, executing a brilliant one-stop strategy. in taking a podium finish having started from 12th. This weekend, the now Red Bull driver believes tire degradation will once again play a role as he looks to recover from a 10-place grid penalty.

See also  Why this has been a culturally unique World Cup

Overtaking can be tricky at Monza so qualifying is crucial

“I think the main thing will be the race pace, the degradation in this place will be key for the race on Sunday,” said Perez. “Obviously it will be difficult to overtake, but I think the demotion looked promising.”

But after Mercedes were Verstappen’s closest adversaries at the Dutch Grand Prix just a week ago, both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were once again left scratching their heads as they tried to figure out who was responsible for their latest deficit with respect to to his rivals.

“It was a bit of a strange day to be honest,” admitted Russell after finishing Friday in fifth place, half a tenth behind the McLaren of Lando Norris.

“FP1 looked pretty strong, but Ferrari and Red Bull have apparently taken a step forward compared to us. So maybe we have taken a step back, as we were obviously behind McLaren in FP2. So a little bit of work to do tonight to understand that.”

With Hamilton starting from the back of the grid on his fourth power unit for the season, Russell is apparently the only driver with a legitimate chance of battling Leclerc for pole position. Hamilton has already accepted that, with Russell having the option of running first or second in qualifying this weekend, he will give his teammate a tow on Saturday. However, Russell says that falling behind Hamilton by a slipstream will not be the priority.

Announcement | Become a follower of RaceFans and go ad-free

“If you can pull it off, it definitely works,” he said. “But there is high risk, high reward. So it’s not something we’re putting too much emphasis on.

Gallery: 2022 Italian Grand Prix practice in pictures

“The qualifying sessions are the time where we learn a lot about the car, the tires and that has clearly been something we have struggled with this year. So for now I think we’ll both go in and do a normal session.”

With no Red Bulls set to start from the top five of the grid, whatever happens on Saturday, the Tifosi will be hoping for nothing less than Leclerc taking pole position to give Ferrari the best possible chance of breaking Verstappen’s latest winning streak. .

“I don’t know how much Red Bull was lying, so let’s wait and see tomorrow when they put it all together,” Leclerc said. “But today the feeling was really good. So I hope we can keep that feeling.”

Combined practice times

Announcement | Become a follower of RaceFans and go ad-free

Italian Grand Prix 2022

Explore all articles of the 2022 Italian Grand Prix

Leave a Comment