In the opening day of the Italian Grand Prix 2023, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen showed an impressive performance, leading in Free Practice 1 (FP1). He was followed closely by Carlos Sainz who clocked in the best time of the day during Free Practice 2 (FP2) on a 1m21.355s duration, narrowly outperforming rivals Lando Norris from McLaren and his own teammate at Red Bull, Sergio Perez. Notably, Perez ended his day with an unfortunate mishap, crashing into the wall at the Parabolica.
Diving deeper into FP1, Verstappen found competition from McLaren‘s Oscar Piastri during the initial 10 minutes as Piastri recorded a swift 1m23.446s timing on soft tyres. However, Verstappen showed up on his mettle, charting a superior time of 1m22.657s on hard tyres within the next 15 minutes time. Verstappen’s improved timing showcased his dominance by being three tenths faster than Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc, who was also on hard tyres, and four tenths ahead of team-mate Perez.
As the session progressed, Perez managed to better his time, recording 1m22.954s just before the halfway mark. Despite the improvements, Perez still lagged behind Verstappen by 0.297s and was a mere 0.012s in front of Leclerc. During the same period, Sainz exhibited an impressive performance, moving up to fourth position on his first lap on new hards and eventually claimed second spot with 1m22.703s, only 0.046s slower than Verstappen.
Behind this leading pack, Mercedes’ George Russell managed to secure fifth place, followed by Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and Norris. There was also a noteworthy performance from reserve driver Felipe Drugovich of Aston Martin, despite being 18th fastest and 1.483s off the pace.
Moving on to FP2, Sainz gained momentum and clocked in the fastest lap at 1’21.355, against Norris’ 1’21.374. Despite an early pace in the session, Verstappen couldn’t better his time beyond 1’21.631 and was positioned fifth after Norris, Perez, and McLaren‘s Oscar Piastri. Some of the other prominent names in the session included Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes‘ George Russell, placing sixth and ninth, respectively.
During FP2, Lance Stroll of Aston Martin encountered an unexpected event when his car lost power due to a fuel issue causing an early red flag and forcing him to withdraw from the rest of the session. Meanwhile, Sainz maneuvered his way to P1 after 20 minutes, overcoming Leclerc’s delay with a significant time of 1m21.565s. Sainz continued his race to set the fastest time of the day even after running wide at Roggia on his first soft-tyre lap.
The session was later marked by a second red flag when Perez spun off course and into the wall at Curva Alboreto, bringing an early end to his run in the session.