Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2017

F1 can break all-time lap speed record on Saturday – if it stays dry

2017 Italian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Will the all-time record for fastest ever in Formula One be broken on Saturday at Monza?

It’s certainly possible – but the deciding factor could be the weather.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Monza, 2017
Italian GP practice in pictures
On Friday F1 cars lapped around 1.4 seconds quicker around the Monza autodrome than they did during the same practice sessions last year. If they make the same performance gain in qualifying they’ll fall short of beating Juan Pablo Montoya’ 2004 record lap of 1’19.525 by a couple of tenths.

But there’s good reason to believe the like of Mercedes can improve on last year’s pole position time by more than 1.4 seconds. All year long the front runners have been making bigger steps on Saturdays than they have on Fridays.

There a couple of reasons why this is likely to be the case. In qualifying the teams dial their engine up to the maximum whereas in practice they need to conserve their power units for future use.

Of course both these things were true 12 months ago. But the need to save mileage in practice is more pressing this year as teams have fewer engines to use during the season. And it seems to be the case that some teams’ qualifying maps are more potent now than they were 12 months’ ago – particularly Mercedes.

So will tomorrow be the first time someone averages more than 262.242kph (162.95mph) for an entire lap? Only if the weather is co-operative.

It rained at the track on Friday but not as much as expected and usually not during the on-track sessions. However the weather forecasts which previously said the rain would ease on Saturday morning now indicate it may linger until the afternoon.

That may be bad for the prospects of record-breaking lap times but it will surely be music to Ferrari ears. Without it they may struggle to beat Mercedes to pole position in a straight fight in dry conditions.

Red Bull is another team which would welcome rain. However penalties mean its drivers are likely to start from the back of the field. This means the likes of Williams and Force India are staring at an open goal with a chance of making a big points haul this weekend.

McLaren also showed promising form on Friday, narrowly beating the Mercedes customer teams to set the seventh and eighth fastest times. Look out for them employing slipstreaming tactics to improve their grid positions tomorrow.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’21.9721’21.40656
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’21.5371’21.46252
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’22.6521’21.54657
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’22.6891’21.80462
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’22.7491’22.40957
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’22.7421’22.75250
7Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Honda1’23.4651’22.94755
8Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’24.0151’22.96848
9Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’23.4001’22.97777
10Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’23.5611’22.98579
11Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’23.6801’23.15043
12Nico HulkenbergRenault1’24.5421’23.27231
13Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’23.3171’23.35279
14Jolyon PalmerRenault1’25.1661’23.31755
15Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’23.9911’23.40366
16Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’24.0791’23.56753
17Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’23.9731’23.65042
18Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Renault1’24.0121’24.25355
19Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’25.6871’24.89456
20Pascal WehrleinSauber-Ferrari1’25.2231’25.29551

2017 Italian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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3 comments on “F1 can break all-time lap speed record on Saturday – if it stays dry”

  1. Vandoorne might get a nice tow from Alonso and start well inside the top 10 or close to it, but come sunday, the power deficit will show. Following a Honda engined McLaren at Monza must be like following a tortoise while wearing a jet pack.

  2. Well placed analysis, but you’re forgetting something here Keith. The prediction shows a stronger headwind between the Variant del Rettifilo and the Parabolica (the longest straight of all) then we had in Shanghai meaning Ferrari needs even more engine deployment = they can never get first now. Never. Or win in the race. Even with rain.

    Breaking the lap record could even be in jeopardy as the low attitude of Monza means the effect of increased drag could even be higher. Even in Barcelona the recorded top speed was 14 km/h lower for the pole lap then in ’16. How can we beat that in Monza with better corner top speeds when 70% of the circuit is full throttle? Bahrain was 66% full throttle and even there Hamilton came short of the official lap record by 1.3 seconds in the race! Better yet they didn’t even beat the unofficial quicker time in qualifying.

    And without US’s which could’ve easily been a better choice from Pirelli entertainment-wise there will be no strategy needed in the quali whatsoever. But bottom-line Lap record? It is not going to happen.

  3. Marian Gri (@)
    2nd September 2017, 6:48

    Everything is possible. We have no real idea what teams do Friday, if they really push to the max (which I hardly doubt), but another 2sec down without US seems quite a lot. But Keith could be right, Mercedes and others taking care of their engines on Fridays by not using and pushing them much and deploy the full power only in Quali. Look at the number of laps completed by Mercedes in FPs, for some races now… they’re completing a lot less laps than Ferrari, which wasn’t really the case before.

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