Charles Leclerc confirmed his dominant pace and completed a ‘double top’ clean sweep for Ferrari in Friday’ rain-hit free practice for the Italian Grand Prix, the in-form Monegasque driver outpacing Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes by just 0.068 seconds.
The 21-year-old Leclerc, who was fastest in the opening session in the morning, clocked a best lap of one minute and 20.978 seconds in the session as he and Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel sandwiched the defending five-time world champion between them.
Fresh from his victory at last weekend’s tragic Belgian Grand Prix, where he dedicated his victory to the memory of his friend Anthoine Hubert who died after crashing in the Formula Two race, Leclerc showed total focus and pace.
Vettel was third, two-tenths down on Leclerc’s best, ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes with Max Verstappen and his new Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon taking fifth and sixth places.
Pierre Gasly was seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Daniil Kvyat in the second Toro Rosso.
On a dismal, drizzly day at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza’s old royal park, Ferrari’s speed was encouraging for the ‘tifosi’ hoping to cheer the team to a first home win since Fernando Alonso triumphed in 2010.
Unusually, after a slow start in difficult conditions, the session was red-flagged and suspended briefly due to the rain, Leclerc having clocked his best lap early on.
The two Mercedes retreated to their garage before emerging again on softs when Hamilton delivered his best lap in the mixed conditions.