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Ferrari sets the pace in difficult conditions


It is with typical F1 irony at as Williams announces a new partnership with a sunglasses manufacturer - posting countless images of drivers Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi sporting various pairs - it is raining dogs and dogs at Imola.

Indeed, there has been talk of abandoning the session, which, of course, would mean the teams have no time for set-ups ahead of qualifying.

This year the teams have to reveal their updates to the media at the start of the weekend and there have been quite a few.

Mercedes includes the side turning vane, mirror housing, modifications to the diffuser, and tweak to lower deflector endplate. Red Bull has updated its floor and rear brake cooling, while championship leaders Ferrari have no updates.

McLaren has a revised beam wing, while Alpine has a new floor but this will only be available to Fernando Alonso this weekend.

Alpha Tauri has revised floor edge and fences, diffuser and front brake duct, while Alpha Tauri has pretty much the same.

Aston Martin, which needs all the help it can get, has a revised halo vane, mirror vane and floor mounting, while Williams has updated its rear wing, front suspension and front brake duct.

At Alfa Romeo it's the floor, engine cover and rear suspension, while just a new floor edge for Haas.

In a late move, Ferrari has opted to change the engine in Sainz' car as a precautionary measure following his off in Melbourne.

Air temperature is 11.5 degrees C, while the track temperature is 14.8 degrees, it is cold, wet and miserable.

Despite the inclement conditions however, the Tifosi is out in force.

The lights go green but understandably there is no desire to head out. What with the budget cap teams don't want to risk unnecessary incidents, but this being a Sprint weekend, with qualifying just a couple of hours away, nobody is going to take the chance.

Four minutes in and Bottas heads out on full wets. He is subsequently followed by Schumacher and Magnussen.

Despite the conditions Bottas stays out for a second lap whilst Schumacher tip-toes back to the pits.

The AlphaTauri pair head out, followed by Sainz and Leclerc, much to the crowd's delight.

Bottas posts the first time of the weekend, the Finn crossing the line at 43.277, shortly after Magnussen stops the clock at 42.539.

Latifi is off at Turn 7 but is able to continue, the Canadian claiming his car went into anti-stall.

With all but Ricciardo and Vettel on track, Bottas goes top with a 40.216, only for Magnussen to respond with a 40.011.

Leclerc spins at Turn 14.

Verstappen goes quickest with a 39.595, as Stroll goes off at Turn 12.

A 39.235 sees Leclerc go top, ahead of Verstappen, Magnussen, Bottas, Gasly, Tsunoda and Perez.

Purples in all three sectors see Verstappen go top (37.427).

The Variante Alta chicane is proving particularly troublesome, with Hamilton among those getting it wrong.

Vettel does well to remain on the black stuff at Rivazza, as Verstappen improves to 36.158.

No sooner has Perez made it a Red Bull 1-2 with a 36.678, than he is demoted by Sainz and then Tsunoda.

A 35.629 sees Leclerc go quickest, as the Mercedes pair remain 12th (Hamilton) and 14th.

Norris goes off and through the gravel at Turn 17 (Rivazza), before heading back to the pits, as Sainz claims that it will be ten minutes before Inters can be considered.

At which pint teammate Leclerc spins at Acque Minerale, having begun his error at Piratella.

Ocon goes off at Turn 17 the Alpine driver taking a long trek through the gravel, using the 'path' created by Norris.

Perez goes quickest with a 35.476... at which point the rain intensifies.

Understandably, the drivers pit.

Shortly after the rain begins to ease a little and the Aston Martin pair head out on Inters., while Albon, who is on full wets, is clearly struggling.

Vettel goes fourth with a 36.131 which should see his rivals make the switch to the green-banded rubber.

Indeed, Norris is first to switch, as Stroll goes off at Turn 13 (Acque Minerale).

Sainz switches to Inters, as does Ricciardo, while Stroll goes off again, this time at Turn 18.

Norris goes second with a 35.502, just 0.026s off Perez' best.

Magnussen becomes the latest to fall foul of Rivazza (Turn 17).

Sainz raises the bar with a 32.606, eclipsing Perez by a full 2.8s.

Shortly after however, Leclerc responds with a 32.512, as, in quick succession, Sainz goes off at Turn 13, Magnussen at Turn 18 and Schumacher spins at Turn 15.

A spin for Leclerc at Turn 14, while Verstappen and Vettel both go off at Turn 13.

A 30.803 sees Sainz go top by 1.709s, as Magnussen posts a 33.721 to claim third.

Schumacher improves to sixth with a 35.106, while Russell finally heads out on Inters. A number of drivers, including Hamilton, have yet to make the switch.

Quickest in all three sectors, Leclerc goes top with a 29.402, as Russell goes 12th (35.599).

Verstappen's lap is ruined by a slow Latifi, the Red Bull driver making clear his frustration.

Hamilton, currently 17th, heads out on Inters as teammate Russell improves to 9th (34.262).

"Big wake up issue for this tyre," reports Hamilton.

Cars continue to go off here and there, Vettel and Russell both having issues at Acque Minerale.

With 5:20 remaining the session is red-flagged after Norris goes off and is stuck in the gravel at the infamous Turn 13. Though he is able to get going again the red flag remains in place until the session resumes with just over 3 minutes remaining.

The session ends, but not soon enough for Bottas to go off at Acque Minerale, the Finn doing brilliants to avoid the barriers.

Leclerc is quickest, ahead of Sainz, Verstappen, Magnussen, Schumacher, Perez, Alonso, Vettel, Tsunoda and Russell.

Bottas is eleventh, ahead of Gasly, Ocon, Norris, Ricciardo, Stroll, Albon, Hamilton, Zhou and Latifi.

An interesting session, and with further rain expected for qualifying it looks like we could be in for some fun and games, indeed shock and surprises over the coming hours.

Check out our Friday gallery from Imola, here.


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