Mercedes’ supremacy in the 2020 Formula 1 season continued as its W11s pulverised the opposition in second practice for the Italian Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton earlier on Friday and in the afternoon the positions were reversed at the high-speed Monza circuit.
Hamilton, who is in search of a record-breaking sixth Italian Grand Prix victory, clocked a time of 1:20.192s.
That left him 0.262s clear of Mercedes team-mate Bottas as teams carried out qualifying simulations in hot and sunny conditions.
Mercedes’ advantage was such that only the impressive Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly lapped within one second of the pace-setting W11.
AlphaTauri’s rocket ship
AlphaTauri caught the eye in the first practice session and the speed of the AT01 was in evidence once more during the afternoon running.
Gasly went quickest through the speed traps, reaching 344.5km/h, as he finished fourth for the Italian team.
His pace was reinforced by team-mate Daniil Kvyat taking seventh place.
McLaren also impressed after early engine issues for Norris.
Norris set his hot lap relatively later than the opposition and surged to third position, albeit 0.897s behind Hamilton, while sixth place for Sainz provided further encouragement for the team, which is currently third in the standings.
A slight improvement for Ferrari?
Ferrari did not classify inside the top 10 in a single session in Belgium and in the opening session its drivers once more finished in the bottom half of the timesheets.
Therefore Charles Leclerc classifying ninth and Sebastian Vettel 12th marks progress of sorts.
But two drivers who should ostensibly have greater speed had problems, with Alexander Albon and Daniel Ricciardo only 14th and 15th after having times deleted for exceeding track limits.
Leclerc and Vettel also both had offs through Lesmo 1.
Leclerc went wide through the gravel, radioing that “the car is so hard to drive,” while Vettel rotated the SF1000 and narrowly avoided rear-ending the barriers.
Home representative Giovinazzi tops ‘Class C’
Antonio Giovinazzi’s points at home 12 months ago proved the catalyst for an upturn in performance that ensured he stayed on the grid for 2020.
The only Italian on the 2020 grid needs a similar surge considering his hefty crash in Belgium five days ago and the form of Ferrari’s crop of juniors in Formula 2.
Giovinazzi classified 13th in the second session, within a tenth of Ferrari driver Vettel, and three-tenths clear of the remainder of the 2020 backmarker contingent, which has usually comprised Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams.
Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean sandwiched Kimi Raikkonen while Williams were further adrift, more reminiscent of their 2019 levels of performance.
Its draggy FW43 was over half a second slower than nearest opponent Haas, with sole rookie Nicholas Latifi outpacing George Russell.
Qualifying shenanigans likely
Several drivers were left caught out by the bunching that took place during the qualifying simulations, on account of racers trying to pick up a slipstream.
The low-downforce high-speed nature of the Monza track means the benefit of a slipstream is multiplied and drivers are unwilling to be at the front of the queue.
Such a situation was most pronounced in Q3 last year and reared its head when all bar two drivers were unable to set a second push lap.
Formula 1 teams were issued a reminder of Article 27.4 of the Sporting Regulations on Friday, outlining that drivers may be investigated if they drive unnecessarily slowly on an out-lap or warm-up lap.
Saturday’s final practice session is scheduled for 12:00 local time.