The days when pre-chicane Monza guaranteed a classic slipstreaming Italian Grand Prix have long gone, but based on Friday practice it could produce the closest Formula 1 race of 2014.
Not only did Mercedes only just shade it on headline laptimes on the opening day, but based on long-run pace the Silver Arrows are in the thick of a cluster of four cars at head of the field.
In fact, it was Williams driver Valtteri Bottas who was fastest over the long runs ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo with the Mercedes the third fastest, almost four tenths per lap slower.
Realistically, Mercedes can be expected to be in a stronger position on race pace. Fridays are always influenced by fuel loads and also the way that the engines are used, so don't expect Bottas to drive away from the field on Sunday.
Most likely, when everyone is in genuine race trim, Mercedes will retain the edge. But even if its advantage is restored, it is unlikely to be by the margins that we have seen at times earlier in the season.
Below are the average long-run pace of the eight fastest cars. These are based on the long-runs on medium rubber during Friday afternoon practice and judged over 12 laps. Anomalous slow laps are disregarded.
LONG-RUN PACE AVERAGE
|1||Williams (Valtteri Bottas)||1m29.463s|
|2||Red Bull (Daniel Ricciardo)||+0.356s|
|3||Mercedes (Nico Rosberg)||+0.385s|
|4||Ferrari (Kimi Raikkonen)||+0.372s|
|5||Force India (Sergio Perez)||+0.594s|
|6||McLaren (Kevin Magnussen)||+0.919s|
|7||Toro Rosso (Daniil Kvyat)||+0.969s|
|8||Sauber (Adrian Sutil)||+1.794s|
GARY ANDERSON: "Bottas looks very good in the Williams. He's right on the limit and using everything that's there for him. While Felipe Massa can't be quite as confident or aggressive with the car as Bottas is.