Monza FP3: Verstappen strikes back, De Vries impressive

Max Verstappen sent out a clear message of intent after topping FP3 for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, over three tenths clear of Charles Leclerc.

The reigning Formula 1 Champion bounced back on Saturday after the Ferrari drivers took turns topping the two practice sessions on Friday at Monza, and went fastest by quite a margin in the final practice session ahead of qualifying.

Charles Leclerc was second fastest behind Verstappen, as Sergio Perez completed the top three.

Leclerc was seemingly struggling to match Verstappen at Turn 6 as he reported over the team radio: “We need to work on Turn 6 especially.

“All the other corners it’s fine. “On Turn 6 it isn’t turning at all,” he added.

Nyck de Vries, who made his proper F1 debut replacing the ill Alex Albon, was 14th fastest. An impressive effort after being called in the last minutes.

De Vries was less than a tenth slower than Nicholas Latifi in the sister car, which just proves how good he is, or then, how lousy a job the Canadian is doing.

Buildup towards FP3

Ferrari started their weekend at home in promising fashion, Charles Leclerc topping FP1 and Carlos Sainz taking over in FP2, on a track they openly admitted would not suit their car.

But early signs shows that F1-75 is not so bad around the Temple of Speed, and with Max Verstappen set for a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race, Leclerc wouldn’t be blamed if he dreams to collect another win in front of the Tifosi after that of 2019.

Carlos Sainz was happy about his car’s pace, but the grid penalty he will collect himself as well (25 places) should put him out of contention.

But the long runs showed that Verstappen and Leclerc are very close, and with Verstappen starting from sixth on the grid at best, and should he manage that by being fastest in qualifying, the race on Sunday should be interesting to watch.

More drivers are expected to collect penalties today as well which is going to mix up the qualifying grid quite a bit, maybe giving the likes of Williams and Aston Martin a fighting chance…

Mercedes, though not as bad as they were at Spa, were nowhere near their Zandvoort form, and would be interest to monitor throughout FP3 heading into qualifying to see if they can improve.

Just ahead of FP3, the news broke that Alex Albon was unwell, and hospitalized to be treated from appendicitis, and will be replaced by Nyck de Vries for the rest of the weekend.

Monza FP3 Session Highlights

As mentioned earlier, more driver were expected to incur further grid penalties, as Alpine confirmed minutes into FP3 that Esteban Ocon will take a new Internal Combustion Engine, and a consequent  five-place grid penalty.

Max Verstappen had an encounter with Mercedes George Russell on his first timed lap, and had to abort it. He went on to clock the fastest time on the second attempt.

“What’s that,” was Verstappen’s reaction on Russell’s block.

Speaking of Mercedes, the team tweeted that both cars will be running black numbers on as a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz had a close incident at Turn 1, twenty minutes into the session, the former being on a hot lap, while Sainz was going around at a leisurely pace, unaware that the Finn was coming.

Bottas locked up heavily and ended up in the run-off area, and Sainz was soon announced to be under investigation.

Halfway through the session, Alex Albon’s replacement, Nyck de Vries made his real F1 debut. Not just practice stuff now, a real race weekend.

The Dutchman soon brought out the Yellow flags, going too hot into Lesmo 1 and ended up doing an excursion through the gravel trap.

Verstappen had another encounter with Mercedes’ Russell, between the two Lesmos, with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso there as well.

Also within the session, Kevin Magnussen was confirmed to be receiving grid penalties for taking extra power unit components. Sainz already set to drop 25 places will also take more PU components, but the damage is already done.

Mick Schumacher remained stuck in the Haas garage with his VF-22 in pieces as the team discovered a clutch problem just as they were getting ready to run in FP3.

The German was sent out on track with less than ten minutes remaining, which means he had no real running for this weekend, having sat out FP1 for Antonio Giovinazzi, lost all running in FP2 as his car broke down, and now the clutch problem. He will be thrown in the deep end for qualifying.

With 20 minutes remaining, drivers started heading out on track with new Soft tyres bolted on from some final qualifying runs.

Carlos Sainz’s first effort on Softs was notably slower than Verstappen’s early-session time on Medium, as Charles Leclerc’s first attempt ended with a error at Turn 4.

Verstappen first qualifying run yielded a lap time over six tenths faster that his earlier time, and over three tenths clear of Leclerc’s hot lap.

Here’s a look at the top speeds registered through the speed traps at the Temple of Speed.

How they finished

Max Verstappen clocked his best time, a 1:21.252 towards the end of the session, while Charles Leclerc could only come with 0.347s close to the Red Bull ace.

Sergio Perez was third fastest, a slight improvement from the Mexican, but still 0.596s off his teammate’s pace.

Carlos Sainz was fourth fastest in the other Ferrari, 0,645s off the pace of Verstappen, as compatriot Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest, 0.409s adrift.

Lando Norris was sixth fastest for McLaren 0.013s behind Alonso, as George Russell lapped seventh fastest, 1.105s off the ultimate pace.

Yuki Tsunoda was eighth fastest for AlphaTauri, 1.178s down from the top, while Esteban Ocon was ninth fastest, 0.076s behind the Japanese.

Proving Mercedes struggles, Lewis Hamilton was down in tenth, 1.315s off the pace. Spa all over again?

Daniel Ricciardo was down in 15th, a miserable session for the Australian, as even Nyck de Vries was faster, albeit by 0.004s

FP3 Official Results