Hamilton Top As Mercedes Lead The Way

Lewis Hamilton topped the times ahead of his Mercedes
team-mate Valtteri Bottas in Friday’s opening free practice
for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the
podium after the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix on May
14, 2017 at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo on the
outskirts of Barcelona. / AFP PHOTO
The three-time world champion Briton clocked a best lap
time of one minute and 21.537 seconds on a damp and
overcast morning at the old royal park as the Mercedes men
outpaced the Ferraris by more than a second.
Hamilton was 0.435 seconds clear of his Finnish team-
mate as he delivered the pace to suggest he may be able to
dominate the weekend, win Sunday’s race and take the
championship lead from Vettel for the first time this year.
Vettel, who was third for Ferrari ahead of his Finnish team-
mate Kimi Raikkonen, has a seven-point lead ahead of
Ferrari’s ‘home’ race, but there was little for the tifosi to
celebrate in the opening skirmishes.
With rain looming throughout the session, most of the field
were out early to take advantage of the initially dry, if cool,
Bottas was fastest first, on soft tyres, before Mercedes
switched to super-soft compounds on which Hamilton
swept to supremacy with a series of ever-faster laps.
A brief spell of light rain changed the conditions and
interrupted the session which saw Red Bull running fifth and
sixth, their Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo ahead of
Dutchman Max Verstappen, despite their upcoming grid
The Australian is expected to be given a 20-place penalty
and Verstappen 15 after Red Bull changed many of their
Renault engine components.
The Force India pairing of Sergio Perez of Mexico and
Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who agreed a peaceful end to
their series of personal clashes on Thursday, were seventh
and eighth ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren Honda
and Brazilian Felipe Massa in his Williams.
The Belgian’s team-mate, two-time champion Fernando
Alonso, was 15th after an overnight change of his Honda
power unit. Alonso is expected to take a 35-place grid
penalty, another setback in his long run of disappointments
with the team.
Somewhat unexpectedly, he stopped running early with that
unit and the team switched him back to an older engine,
which he used in last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. He is
due to continue with that engine.
Honda suggested this was a planned procedure so that the
‘tested’ updated engine can be saved for the Singapore
Grand Prix where McLaren hope to enjoy a much-improved

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