Scoring a 1m32.120s lap during the soft-tyre phase of the practice session, Carlos Sainz emerged as the top performer in Monza. Despite enduring an intense challenge from Charles Leclerc and posting weaker first and second sectors, Sainz managed to maintain his lead.
Free Practice session 2 (FP2), conducted at the same time as the qualifying round and main race, is deemed to hold the most representative practice session. As darkness fell, the track cooled off considerably, altering the conditions the drivers had to face.
While initially, the scoreboard was dominated by Sainz during the first half of the session, Leclerc ignited a fiery comeback, taking advantage of his medium compound tyres. Eventually, at the conclusion of the final run on his yellow-walled tyres, Leclerc overtook Sainz by about a quarter of a second.
Sainz had first leapt ahead of the short-lived session leader Fernando Alonso with a 1m33.303s lap, which he later improved to a 1m33.213s. However, Leclerc claimed the honour of being the first to break the 1m33s barrier with a 1m32.974s lap, following a lull in the session.
Subsequently, the drivers returned to the circuit for another round, this time to mimic the qualifying runs on soft compound tyres as darkness fell further. Even though the Monegasque racer managed to edge ahead in the first two sectors, Sainz set the best time with his 1m32.120s lap.
Leclerc suffered a minor setback during the final sector, stumbling at Turns 18 and 19 just before the finish line. Consequently, the slight advantage he had built up dissipated, causing him to trail Sainz by 0.018s. Despite taking another lap on their softs, both Ferrari drivers couldn’t improve their times but remained ahead for the rest of the session.
Giving the Ferraris a run for their money, George Russell secured the third spot on the scoreboard, finishing 0.235s behind Sainz. As Russell navigated his Mercedes W14 deftly, despite a few hiccups, Alonso, a two-time champion, was relegated to the fourth spot.
On the other hand, Red Bulls visibly struggled to perfect their pace. Especially apparent was Max Verstappen‘s battle with a noticeably wayward rear, while Sergio Perez wrestled with a car that made him feel “in every braking zone, I feel like I’m going to crash”. Despite this, Perez outshone his fellow team-mate Verstappen.
Among the top ten, Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas placed, with the Finn falling between Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, who finished 11th. Lastly, a power unit problem led to Alex Albon setting his fastest lap on the hard tyre, thereby ensuring he couldn’t compete on softs to validate a representative qualifying simulating time. As a result, he completed the grid.