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2018 F1

2018 Italian Grand Prix: Practice Analysis

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While Sergio Perez topped the time sheets of an inconclusive morning free practice session, Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets of the afternoon session. The morning session was interrupted by rain and the afternoon session was interrupted with Marcus Ericsson’s violent crash. The second session was witness to how dominate the two Ferraris were on home-ground and fairly representative of their pace advantage.

In the second practice session where most cars tried sprint runs on both the supersoft and soft tyre compounds, the scarlet cars were the quickest on both tyres. While Vettel only used the supersoft compound throughout the session, his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen used both soft and supersoft compound tyres for the sprints and long runs.

In the sprint or qualifying trims, Ferrari was quicker than Mercedes on both the soft and supersoft tyre. Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton did their sprint runs on the softs, where the former lead the latter by a tenth of a second. However on the supersoft tyre, Vettel was about 0.287 seconds quicker than Hamilton who was the quicker Mercedes driver. The Red Bull Racing cars however looked like they were struggling in terms of matching the times, as they were a whole second adrift off Vettel’s time and seventh tenths of a second slower than Hamilton’s fastest best, on the same tyre compounds.

The Ferrari are supposed to have run their cars in the normal engine mode and not their superior boosted modes, however Vettel managed clocking the fastest time in all three sectors. So if one had to string a lap based on his fastest sectors, his actual lap time would be 1 minute 20.912 seconds, while his title rival Hamilton’s actual lap after adding the best sectors would be 1 minute 21. 379 seconds. Vettel had a spin at the Parabolica towards the end of the sprint session, this made him resume his long runs slightly late compared to the top six cars.

In terms of race pace Ferrari were again dominating the day, however the long run pace can be a bit unrepresentative since it does not factor in weather conditions. The forecast for qualifying might be wet, which means Hamilton could have an advantage, however in the race, it could be the two Ferraris. Vettel did not use the soft compound at all through the session, and the ideal comparison between the Ferrari and Mercedes’ race pace can be done, by comparing Raikkonen’s pace with Bottas or Hamiltons’ on the yellow tyre in particular. The lap time averages for each compound were as follows:

Driver Supersoft Soft
Vettel 1: 24. 857 (5 laps) NA
Raikkonen 1: 24. 705 (1 lap) * 1: 24.506 (4 laps)

1: 24.554 (5 laps)

Hamilton 1: 25.267 (5 laps) 1: 24.598 (2 laps) *
Bottas 1: 25.169 (5 laps) 1: 24.691 (4 laps)
Verstappen 1: 25.614 (4 laps) 1: 25.004 (3 laps)
Ricciardo 1: 25.637 (5 laps) 1: 25.230 (3 laps)

* unrepresentative

There are two lap time averages for Raikkonen on the soft tyre, so if one compares the lap time average on the soft tyre compound over four laps with Bottas’ average best over the same number of laps, the senior Finn is less than a tenth of a second quicker than the Mercedes. The soft tyre will be used for the longer stint in the race, so the difference isn’t much, which means the two cars could be closely matched. But on the supersoft compound tyre, depending on the weather and tyre degradation, the Ferraris are unmatched in race pace, and are comfortably ahead.

So here’s the pecking order on the two tyre compounds, based on the averages, using the quickest driver from each team on the particular compound:

Supersoft Soft
1 Raikkonen Vettel
2 Bottas Bottas
3 Verstappen Verstappen

The forecast for qualifying is cloudy and damp weather, so there is a chance it could be a wet qualifying session. The rain could play to Hamilton or Mercedes’ advantage, however that could also mean Red Bull Racing drivers could add to the mix at the front. If the final qualifying session is on intermediates or the whole qualifying is on intermediates depending on the showers, then it could mean the entire grid being shuffled. However, for the race day, the forecast is cloudy and dry, with no forecast for rain, therefore the pecking order mentioned above would prevail, however it will all depend on the grid position during qualifying. If the qualifying session remains uninterrupted by rain, then a Ferrari front row lockout would be a certain possibility.

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