Friday’s opening practice session (FP1) took place under hazy sunshine amid a comfortable temperature of 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit). The day’s second practice session (FP2) saw temperatures increase to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) as the sun continued to beat down on the historic, 5.793-kilometer (3.6-mile), 11-turn circuit.
And just like in Belgium, Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez tried out a set of unmarked prototype tires from Pirelli. The prototype tires are being evaluated by Pirelli for use later this season, where the design is better able to withstand contact with curbing and minimal contact with other cars.
Grosjean and Gutiérrez made their respective installation laps using the prototype tires and then switched to Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires for their first runs at speed. Both drivers made seven-lap stints before returning to the garage and donning the prototype tires for separate runs at full tilt. Each driver made their final drives utilizing Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tires, and it was here where they scored their fastest laps of the session. Grosjean logged a 1:24.763 on his 16th lap to set the sixth-fastest time and Gutiérrez put up a 1:25.113 on his 19th lap, good for ninth overall. This was the highest ranking either driver had achieved in a practice session so far this season.
Fastest in FP1 was Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg with a lap of 1:22.959, which nipped his teammate Lewis Hamilton by .203 of a second. The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth quickest, respectively, with fast times of 1:24.047 and 1:24.307.
The speed Grosjean and Gutiérrez showcased in FP1 continued in FP2 even as the two drivers ran different programs to double up on the amount of data collected.
After making two installation laps on his used set of prototype tires, Grosjean switched to Yellow softs for a seven-lap run. An eight-lap drive followed, but on a set of Red supersofts. Grosjean ended the session on a used set of softs for an 18-lap stint while carrying a high fuel load. It was on the supersofts that Grosjean was able to secure his fastest lap, a 1:24.516 on his 16th tour that put him ninth overall.
Gutiérrez, meanwhile, eschewed an installation lap for an immediate, seven-lap run on Pirelli P Zero White medium tires. He then switched to a set of supersofts for another seven-lap run before doing an eight-lap stint on used supersofts with a high fuel load. Gutiérrez ended the 90-minute session with an 11-lap run on used White medium tires. He set his best time on his 14th lap, a 1:24.674 earned on supersofts that placed him 14th.
It was Mercedes atop the charts again in FP2, but with Hamilton the lead driver. His quick time of 1:22.801 was .193 of a second faster than Rosberg. Ferrari remained stout, with Vettel (1:23.254) and Raikkonen (1:23.427) third and fourth.
Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 104 laps split evenly between Grosjean and Gutiérrez.
Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team
“It was a pretty good day at the office. The car felt good this morning straightaway. It was the same again in the afternoon, with higher track temperatures. The guys did a good job. It’s a very good car for Monza. We tried different (tire) compounds. I did a high-fuel, low-fuel outing. There were no major issues. There are a few small things we can improve but, generally, I’m very happy with the car.”
Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team
“We completed our program working a lot on understanding the tire’s behavior, because here we require a lot of traction and the tire’s temperature directly affects that. We’re trying our best to find the maximum traction without compromising the overall balance of the car. I think we’ll have some interesting data to analyze so we can fine tune everything for tomorrow. The pack is very tight, so it’ll be important to get everything spot on throughout each sector, which will be a challenge, but that’s competition and it’s what we love doing.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
“FP2 was a pretty good session for us. No major issues. We ran through our program as planned. It seems we’ve found a respectable balance with the car. In the midfield it’s very tight, so we still don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow after qualifying. We’ll evaluate all the data we’ve collected from today and see what we want to try tomorrow to make the cars go faster.”
Drivers have one more practice session on Saturday (11:00-12:00) before qualifying starts at 14:00. Qualifying consists of three rounds, with the 16 fastest drivers from Q1 moving on to Q2. Then, the 10 fastest drivers from Q2 advance to Q3 where they’ll battle for the pole.