Hamilton back on top as Mercedes dominate second practice

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during practice at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza September 4, 2020. ― Reuters pic
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during practice at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza September 4, 2020. ― Reuters pic

MONZA, Sept 4 ― Championship leader Lewis Hamilton topped the times ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes continued their emphatic domination in Friday afternoon’s second practice for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

The six-time champion responded to the Finn’s quickest lap in opening practice in the morning by clocking a best lap in one minute and 20.192 to outpace him by 0.262 seconds.

Lando Norris grabbed third place for McLaren with a late flying lap that was nearly nine-tenths adrift of the leading pace, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who was fourth for Alpha Tauri, both men having overcome reliability issues during the session.

Behind the top four, Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull ahead of Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren and Daniil Kvyat, in the second Alpha Tauri, followed by Lance Stroll of Racing Point, Charles Leclerc in the leading Ferrari and Sergio Perez in the second Racing Point.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was 12th in the second Ferrari as the Italian team improved on their ignominious display in Belgium.

Williams’ disappointment

It was a disappointing day for Williams as they began an emotional weekend with rookie Nicholas Latifi 19th and George Russell 20th and last, having struggled with handling issues. The team parts company with the founding Williams family after Sunday’s race.

On a near-perfect late summer’s afternoon in the old royal park, the air temperature was 26 degrees and the track 42 when Kimi Raikkonen was first man out in his Alfa Romeo. The Finn was quickest for just one minute before Lance Stroll went top for Racing Point, followed by Gasly.

The drivers had been warned by race director Michael Masi not to drive over-slowly on cool-down laps, a spectacle that wrecked final qualifying in 2019 as they jostled for ‘clean air’ for a flying lap.

“There’s going to be a shunt with all this at some point,” said George Russell on Williams’ team radio, referring to the slow on-track queues. “It’s a... nightmare.”

Unperturbed, Hamilton, on medium tyres, clocked 1:20.645, a lap that kept him clear of Bottas, on hards, by three-tenths.

Sainz was the first to try softs and took P3, still half a second off the two ‘black arrows’ who flexed their muscles again when Hamilton clocked 1:20.192. Bottas replied with 1:20.454.

At that stage, Leclerc and Vettel were eighth and 12th before the German spun at the Lesmos, losing the rear end as his car’s rear wing bumped off the barriers. 

Two minutes later, Leclerc had an almost identical ‘moment’ at the Lesmos, but backed off and made a recovery run across the grass.

“The car is so hard to drive,” he told Ferrari without intentional understatement before Norris showed McLaren’s pace by taking third behind the two Mercedes. ― AFP

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