Mercedes drivers had the fastest time in the second and final free practice for the Italian GP, which teams and drivers used exclusively to simulate sprints and main races and test all tire components, in order to decide on the most optimal strategy.
The times of the second training were about 3 seconds slower than the times from the first training when the teams and drivers were preparing for the qualifications. The qualifiers were done yesterday, and the focus of the team is now preparing for the race and testing the behavior of the tires in the longer sections.
Mercedes have been testing hard tires next to the soft, which suggests they may be considering using Pirelli’s toughest component in tomorrow’s race. In the first part of training, Verstappen and Hamilton did their stint on soft tires, and Verstappen was about a second and a half faster than the British, which speaks of different programs of the two teams — Hamilton most likely had more fuel in the car and tested the behavior of soft tires for tomorrow’s main race, while Verstappen was probably working on trying out soft tires for the sprint race.
Drivers can start a sprint race on any component they want, so the dilemma is whether to start on soft and ‘suffer’ in the last couple of laps, or start on medium.
Verstappen finished second in third place, behind two Mercedes, and set his fastest time on medium tires, and with that lap, he was 4 tenths behind Hamilton, who spent his fastest time on soft, as well as Bottas.
Both Mercedes went to the pits after that one quick lap and came back to the track with different tires and did a race simulation. Carlos Sainz caused the red flag in mid-practice after he smashed his car. The entire front end of his Ferrari has been destroyed, and the mechanics will have their hands full preparing him for the sprint race.
There were generally big differences between drivers in the amount of fuel they have in the tank, as some tried out the tires for the sprint race, while others prepared for the main race to be driven tomorrow. There are quite a few unknowns ahead of the sprint and the main race.
Some teams, for example, sacrificed speed in qualifying to be more competitive in races, while others threw their cards to one fast lap. In addition to Hamilton, Bottas, and Verstappen, the remaining seven in the top 10 were Perez, Ocon, Kubica, Giovinazzi, Alonso, Gasly, and Norris.
The standings were very mixed in relation to the qualifiers, which only speaks to how much the teams ’programs differed during this second training session, and things should be a bit clearer after the qualifying sprint race that runs today at 4:30 p.m.