Leclerc on top for Ferrari after dramatic opening practice

Charles Leclerc delighted a rain-soaked crowd on Friday when he claimed the best time for Ferrari in a dramatic opening free practice at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old Monegasque, who secured his maiden victory at last Sunday's tragic Belgian Grand Prix, topped the times ahead of Carlos Sainz of McLaren, the pair making the most of drying conditions in the final part of a mostly-treacherous 90 minutes punctuated by three red-flag stoppages.

It was Leclerc's first return to the cockpit since he dedicated his victory at Spa-Francorchamps to the memory of his close friend Frenchman Anthoine Hubert who died after crashing in a Formula Two race in Belgium last Saturday.

Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly caused suspensions of the action by crashing out of control, all escaping unhurt while several other drivers survived lurid spins in the difficult conditions.

Running on medium compound slick tyres, Leclerc's best lap in one minute and 27.905 lifted him three-tenths clear of Sainz with rookie Lando Norris an impressive third for McLaren ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

Red Bull new boy Alex Albon was fifth ahead of former team-mate Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and Max Verstappen, in the second Red Bull and four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari.

Valtteri Bottas was ninth for Mercedes and Gasly 10th for Toro Rosso, positions that meant little in the circumstances as F1 resumed something like normal service on a dismal morning at the Autodromo Nazionale in the former royal park.

Raikkonen crashed his Alfa Romeo, running on the much-maligned 'inters', at the Parabolica and, no sooner was the circuit cleared, than Perez prompted a second red-flag -- crashing at the exit of the Ascari chicane -- and this was repeated when, on resumption, Gasly lost control and beached his Toro Rosso on a kerb at the Variante del Rettifilo.

Verstappen and Kvyat topped the early times before Sainz and then the leading contenders took over - Leclerc encouraging early Ferrari optimism with his best lap of the morning.