Valtteri Bottas continued Mercedes’ position at the top of the timesheets after posting the quickest lap time in Friday’s second practice session at the Italian Grand Prix.

While the Silver Arrows again locked out the top two positions on the stopwatch – albeit with their drivers swapping positions from FP1 – the Brackley-based squad will be nervously looking over their shoulders once again as chief rivals Ferrari showed improved pace in the session.

Bottas’ fastest lap, a 1:21.406 posted on the Super Soft tyres, was less than six-hundredths of a second quicker than teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final reckoning. Hamilton had led the way in the opening stanza of the session when the team concentrated on Soft tyre running, before the switch to Super Soft rubber later on saw Bottas move ahead.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel finished third-quickest, just one-tenth of a second behind, although the German’s quickest was curiously allowed to stand despite the Ferrari driver clearly running well beyond the track limits as he exited the Parabolica onto the start/finish straight.

Kimi Räikkönen finished fourth-fastest with his best time coming on his second flying lap on Super Soft rubber.

Continuing the Noah’s Ark theme on the timesheets was Red Bull Racing, which had Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo fifth- and sixth-quickest respectively. The pair was separated by three-tenths of a second, but both will start Sunday’s race well down the order thanks to hefty grid penalties for changing a number of Renault power unit elements.

Verstappen will take a 15-place grid penalty, while his Australian teammate fares worse with a 20-place hit.

Also set to join them at the back of the grid is McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who has a 35-place demotion. Despite his car’s clear horsepower disadvantage, the Spaniard finished an impressive eighth-fastest, one spot behind teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. The pair achieved the strong result thanks to a replication of their tactics in qualifying at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix – this time each driver took turns providing his teammate with a healthy slipstream to offset their lack of straight-line speed.

The top ten was completed by Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Williams’ Felipe Massa.

The session featured several incidents as drivers explored the circuit’s grip levels, which were reduced thanks to a rain shower between the two practice sessions.

Ricciardo and Williams rookie Lance Stroll both had wild moments at the Ascari chicane, with the latter triggering a a flurry of yellow flags when he spun after clipping the inside kerb too hard. The Canadian teenager finished the session fifteenth-fastest.

Also coming to grief over the kerbs was Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who had to stop his car on the side of the track – triggering a momentary Virtual Safety Car – after breaking his right-rear suspension when he ran too hard over the exit kerbs at the second Lesmo corner. He was classified 17th-fastest in the session, one spot behind teammate Romain Grosjean.

It proved a tough session for Scuderia Toro Rosso at their home Grand Prix, with both cars forced to stop before the 90-minute session was completed. Carlos Sainz Jr was eleventh-fastest overall, but his running came to a smoky halt when his STR12 started to belch oil as his Renault engine appeared to fail. The Spaniard already has a 10-place grid penalty for swapping to a new MGU-H, and looks set for potentially further drops down the starting grid if forced to take on other new power unit elements.

Teammate Daniil Kvyat only ran on the Soft compound tyres and finished a lowly 18th-fastest ahead of the Saubers, with the Russian called back into the garage in the final minutes when a problem was discovered on his car.

The Renaults improved relative to FP1 with Nico Hülkenberg and Jolyon Palmer finishing 12th and 13th-fastest respectively, although the former had his session cut short thanks to an hydraulics issue in his RS17.

Saturday’s final practice session at Monza will begin at 11:00 local time (GMT +2).

  Driver   Team / Entry Time Tyre Laps
1. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:21.406 Pirelli Super Soft 25
2. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:21.462 Pirelli Super Soft 24
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:21.546 Pirelli Super Soft 33
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:21.804 Pirelli Super Soft 34
5. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:22.409 Pirelli Super Soft 34
6. Daniel Ricciardo au Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:22.752 Pirelli Super Soft 22
7. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:22.947 Pirelli Super Soft 31
8. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:22.968 Pirelli Super Soft 31
9. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:22.977 Pirelli Super Soft 43
10. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:22.985 Pirelli Super Soft 42
11. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:23.150 Pirelli Super Soft 21
12. Nico Hulkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:23.272 Pirelli Super Soft 14
13. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:23.317 Pirelli Super Soft 34
14. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:23.352 Pirelli Super Soft 43
15. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:23.403 Pirelli Super Soft 36
16. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:23.567 Pirelli Super Soft 31
17. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:23.650 Pirelli Super Soft 20
18. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:24.253 Pirelli Soft 28
19. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:24.894 Pirelli Super Soft 39
20. Pascal Wehrlein de Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:25.295 Pirelli Super Soft 25

Image via LAT Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.