RACE DEBRIEF

    Pierre Gasly’s FP2 session may have ended prematurely with a suspension issue, but the AlphaTauri driver was still beaming as he climbed out his car at the end of a Friday he referred to as his best - "by far" - this season.

    Gasly, fresh from a Driver of the Day run to P8 in Belgium last weekend, finished sixth in FP1 then fourth in the second session as he underlined his and AlphaTauri's impressive recent form.__

    “It’s been the best Friday, by far, since the start of the season,” said Gasly, who clocked 25 laps, was the last driver within a second of session leader Lewis Hamilton, and went faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

    READ MORE: Red Bull have 'over-performed' in Italy says Horner as he talks up chances of return to Monza podium

    “I think we were sixth this morning and fourth this afternoon, so I must say, the feeling in the car felt good. I could push, I managed to put in some good laps and I felt quite comfortable,” he continued.

    However, Gasly spun at the end of FP1 at Variante Della Roggia and his FP2 long run ended prematurely as he complained that something was “bouncing” at the rear of the car and had to crawl his AlphaTauri AT01 back into the pits. The issue did little to dampen his mood, however.

    'Best Friday of the season' for Pierre Gasly

    “Unfortunately we had a small issue with the damper at the end during the long run and we had to stop before the end, but generally speaking we’re pretty happy,” he said.

    Gasly heads into the Italian Grand Prix - Faenza-based AlphaTauri's home event - on the hunt for his third straight points finish, and fifth top 10 of the year. With team mate Daniil Kvyat also looking quick, coming fourth and seventh in the two sessions, a strong result looks on the cards. So where has this pace come from? Gasly himself admitted the team hadn't expected to be so quick at Monza.

    READ MORE: Gasly dedicates P8 to Hubert after ‘intense’ Eau Rouge overtake in Belgium

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    The AlphaTauri AT01s carried a sticker on Friday to mark 50 F1 races with Honda power

    “Well, actually we’ve got no idea,” he replied. “It’s a surprise even to see ourselves near the top there. I think the set-up we have for Monza with very low downforce seems to work quite well, but then I think we can improve – we can still improve a bit for tomorrow – and I think there will be some surprises especially with the new engine modes and what we can use in quali and in the race so still, we’ve got to be careful.”

    As engine suppliers Honda and AlphaTauri mark their 50th race together, there would be no better way for the team to celebrate than with a big points haul at home. The Italian team have history with this race – Sebastian Vettel having won here in 2008 when they were known as Toro Rosso…