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Italian GP: Lewis Hamilton expecting close fight with favourites Ferrari

By September 6, 2019 No Comments
Italian GP: Lewis Hamilton expecting close fight with favourites Ferrari

“We are on a similar level which is quite nice,” says Hamilton after less then a tenth separates Ferrari and Mercedes on Friday; Sky F1 live throughout Saturday at Monza – Qualifying begins at 2pm

By Matt Morlidge and James Galloway

Last Updated: 06/09/19 6:03pm

2:14

Anthony Davidson compares the fastest laps of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton during second practice ahead of the Italian GP

Anthony Davidson compares the fastest laps of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton during second practice ahead of the Italian GP

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes can spoil Ferrari’s party at their home Italian GP this weekend, insisting the two teams are on a “similar level” at Monza despite the Scuderia’s power advantage.

Ferrari, debuting an upgraded engine at F1’s fastest track and looking for back-to-back 2019 victories, were billed as strong favourites for the weekend by Mercedes but while Charles Leclerc topped both Friday sessions, Hamilton was just 0.068s slower in Practice Two – which allowed more dry running than P1 on a rain-affected day.

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P2 Report: Leclerc just ahead of Hamilton
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Hamilton was aided by a tow from team-mate Valtteri Bottas for his fastest lap, but it was also set in light rain compared to Leclerc’s on a dry track.

Although conditions meant a representative pecking order from Friday is unclear, Hamilton at least believes Mercedes are closer to Ferrari than they were in Spa – when Leclerc beat him to pole by seven-tenths of a second before just holding him off in the race.

“They’re quite quick in a straight line, we’re quite strong I think on race pace,” said Hamilton. “But perhaps a little bit closer potentially on single lap pace. It looks like we can have a fight.

“I was expecting them to be quick on a straight, which they are, but there’s enough corners in which we’re able to gain it back. They’re not really that quick through the corners, so it kind of balances us out.

“I still think it’s going to be a really hard race but we are on a similar level which is quite nice.”

Bottas, who was fourth in P2, added: “We knew coming here they were going to be strong but it didn’t look worse than Spa for us.

“For sure we have a good chance this weekend.”

Leclerc has also seen sufficient early evidence to believe that Ferrari have a fight on their hands at the front of the field.

“Nice to be quickest, but I don’t think it’s a real picture of everything,” said the Ferrari driver.

“I expect Mercedes to be very strong tomorrow when we will be in the same conditions, because they did their fastest lap time in difficult conditions.”

Sebastian Vettel, two tenths off Leclerc’s pace, added: “It was OK but we can still get more out of the car. It was a bit of a scrappy session with everybody jumping out when the light went green because of the conditions and not the usual rhythm you have.

“The main thing is we got some decent laps, we know where the weakness is, and that’s what we try to focus on.”

4:47 Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson and David Croft look back at the key moments from Friday’s practice sessions ahead of the Italian GP

Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson and David Croft look back at the key moments from Friday’s practice sessions ahead of the Italian GP

Will the ‘tow’ make the difference?

Although Friday’s two sessions were disrupted by intermittent rain and several red flags, one consistent trend seen was teams using their two cars in order to create a straightline-speed-boosting tow. One car was running around just ahead of the other, with the second car gaining a performance benefit down the straights.

“If you’re within three or four seconds of the car in front, it’s probably going to be worth 3-4kph,” says Sky F1’s Paul Di Resta. “That on every straight is free lap time.”

Karun Chandhok added: “The gap Lewis had behind Valtteri in P2 was perfect. Lewis gained 6kph on every straight.”

Asked about the effectiveness of a tow, Vettel said: “We will see the conditions, we will see the tyres, how careful we need to be on the out lap and go from there.

“It’s nice if you get the tow, it’s not so nice if you don’t, but that’s how it is around here.”

Battle set at ‘special’ Monza

Ferrari are looking for a first Italy win since 2010 while Mercedes have won the last five events, making quite the habit of upsetting the home ‘Tifosi’.

Hamilton also praised the “incredible” and “special” Monza circuit and Italian GP, which is celebrating its 90th event this weekend.

“It’s an incredible track,” he stated. “It’s a really special circuit, the braking points are incredibly important, it’s very bumpy and then you’ve got Parabolica and you throw so much speed into those corners and you’ve not got a lot of downforce.

“It’s a real special track to drive.”

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