Vettel 'surprised' by pace of others at wet Monza

Mercedes set to retain Valtteri Bottas next season after team boss Toto Wolff said new contract was a 'no brainer'

Mercedes set to retain Valtteri Bottas next season after team boss Toto Wolff said new contract was a 'no brainer'

It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts if Mercedes driver Hamilton leads qualifying and breaks his tie with Schumacher to claim his 69th pole position.

This year's event has an added emotional ingredient with the sport's oldest and most successful team celebrating the 70th Anni of founder Enzo Ferrari's 1st vehicle with their most competitive season in years.

Lewis Hamilton steers his Mercedes during Friday practice at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza ahead of the Italian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was characteristically emotional at the result. "I'm trying to figure it all out right this second", Hamilton said. "Growing up, watching the sport and witnessing greatness in other individuals such as Michael [Schumacher]". It's hard to say something about the performance; it's only the first free practice, lap times don't mean much and we don't know what other people are doing. When Q1 got back underway at 16:40, all drivers initially went out on the wets before switching to the intermediates as conditions improved. "It's great to break this record at such a historic circuit and in such a lovely country", Hamilton, who is seven points behind leader Vettel and can take the overall lead on Sunday, told the crowd.

Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas drives during the first practice session at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza on Saturday ahead of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix. They were quick whenever they went out, which is what we expected. "The weather was obviously incredibly tricky for us all".

All of which would have been enough to grab the attention but behind him everyone, it seemed, wanted their time on centre stage.

The two Red Bull drivers, as well as Sainz and Alonso should reap punishment on the starting grid to have made changes to the engine. This is simply due to teams taking so much downforce off the cars in search for high top speed speed gains down the many straights Monza has to offer. Behind them, however, others had also been making the best of the conditions and they have reaped the rewards.

Felipe Massa was eighth in the Williams and Esteban Ocon ninth in the Force India after he and teammate Sergio Perez almost took each other out of the race in a ridiculous overtaking move.

LEWIS HAMILTON will be out to wipe the smile off Sebastian Vettel's face - by storming to the front of the title race.

Watch the Italian GP LIVE ONLY on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was third ahead of Canadian rookie Lance Stroll of Williams, French rookie Esteban Ocon of Force India and Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was sixth in the second Mercedes.

The Briton acknowledged their achievement. He was, how can I say, I don't think he was leaving anything behind. "But I think it is the nicest race - we have a lot of support and the atmosphere is special".

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