Vettel managed just four laps in the day’s first practice amid car problems, which led to Ferrari changing his gearbox, but he enjoyed better success this time, pipping team mate Kimi Raikkonen to top spot by two-tenths of a second. His session ended on a sour note, though, when his Prancing Horse took a trip through the Parabolica gravel, nudging the barrier, before he was able to return to the pits.
The German’s chief title rival Lewis Hamilton also endured a low-key FP1 – with wet conditions limiting the Brit to just six laps – but the Mercedes driver was this time only 0.287s off the pace to make up the top three, ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the sister Silver Arrow.
Behind the tussling Ferraris and Mercedes were the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, the former edging the battle for fifth by a tenth. After a surprise top six in FP1, which saw Sergio Perez go quickest, this was a more familiar group leading the way.
Speaking of Perez, the Mexican had to settle for eighth on Friday afternoon, with his Force India team mate Esteban Ocon the quickest of the pink cars in seventh, while Charles Leclerc won the battle for P9 ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
While Sauber will take confidence from Leclerc’s top-ten finish, they suffered their second scare in a week when Ericsson suffered a high-speed crash during the early stages of this session, with the Swede fortunately walking away unharmed.
Barely two minutes were complete when Ericsson’s C37 veered left into the wall near the end of the start-finish straight, smashing into the barriers at a very high velocity before barrel rolling numerous times over the grass.
That incident brought out the red flag, while the Swede’s stricken Sauber was removed and the barriers were repaired, but once we did get back to action, the remaining 19 drivers were able to showcase their pace around the ‘Temple of Speed’.
So after a wet FP1, we were finally given a glimpse of how the top teams can perform at this magical track. There's no forgetting the battle for the best of the rest either, with Force India enjoying yet another positive display.
Bring on FP3 - and qualifying...