September 11, (THEWILL) – British race driver Sir Lewis Hamilton maintained a dominant weekend for champions Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team at the Italian GP staying ahead in the final practice ahead of Saturday’s F1 Sprint. However, the session was marred by a big crash involving Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
The crash brought out red flags halfway through the hour when Sainz’s Ferrari dipped a tyre on the chicane at the Ascari chicane before thumping into the barriers. It left his car heavily damaged and spinning around at speed.
Fortunately, the 27-year-old came out unscathed and was given a preliminary all-clear after medical checks. However, Ferrari face a big repair job on his car ahead of the F1 Sprint, the 18-lap dash around the Monza circuit that will set the grid for Sunday’s Italian GP itself.
As Mercedes lead driver, Hamilton will go into that Sprint as the favourite after showing his pace in Practice Two, which essentially was long-run practice for the drivers. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas faces a back-of-the-grid start with an engine penalty for Sunday’s race, but for the Sprint, he will line up ahead of Hamilton on the front row later today.
The Red Bull challenge remains ever present. Running on the slower medium tyre, Max Verstappen will be 0.4s behind the pair of Mercedes drivers in third place, from where he will start the Sprint with an eye to getting ahead of the champions in time for Sunday’s GP. Verstappen still has a slim lead in the championship over Hamilton and Mercedes.
The top four was a pairing of two Mercedes and two Red Bull drivers as Verstappen was just ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, who faces a comeback mission from ninth on the grid in Sunday’s race. Alpine-Renault’s Esteban Ocon finished fifth ahead of Robert Kubica in the Alfa Romeo.
Sainz’s crash, his third in four races, caused the session to be red-flagged for 10 minutes. Sainz, who is set to start the F1 Sprint from seventh, also had a shunt in Hungarian GP qualifying, and the Saturday morning practice last weekend at Zandvooort.
Although he seemed to be fine and confirmed that he was “hurt, but OK” on team radio after the crash, the Spaniard will be checked in the medical centre again before the F1 Sprint.