Sebastian Vettel quickest in final practice for Italian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel raised hopes of a home pole position for Ferrari after he finished quickest in final practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel ended the concluding running before qualifying at Monza, just 0.032 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas third and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc fourth.

Lewis Hamilton finished only sixth, three tenths off Vettel’s pace after he made a mistake.

The world champion, who holds a 65-point lead ahead of Sunday’s race, lost time after going too deep at the Ascari chicane.

The final practice session was delayed by 10 minutes following Alex Peroni’s terrifying airborne crash in a Formula Three race earlier on Saturday.

Peroni, the 19-year-old Australian, emerged unscathed from the accident, but the kerb which appeared to launch him airborne at the high-speed Parabolica corner, was subsequently removed by the FIA.

Leclerc finished fastest in both practice sessions on Friday, but it was the Monegasque’s Ferrari team-mate who led the way ahead of the battle for pole position.

The top six drivers were separated by just 0.301 seconds, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo one spot ahead of Hamilton.

British novice Lando Norris finished 14th for McLaren. Norris’ compatriot George Russell was 19th, two seconds off the pace.

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Charles Leclerc completes Italian Grand Prix practice double

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Charles Leclerc continued his good form to complete a practice double for the Italian Grand Prix.

Just five days after he registered the maiden victory of his Formula One career in Belgium, Leclerc ended both rain-interrupted sessions in Monza at the top of the leader board.

Lewis Hamilton, who heads into Sunday’s final round of the European season with a 65-point championship lead, trailed Leclerc by just seven hundredths of a second.

Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel finished third ahead of Valtteri Bottas for Mercedes.

Leclerc delivered an impressive performance last time out at Spa-Francorchamps, dominating throughout practice, sealing pole position before marching to the chequered flag.

And the young Monegasque driver seems in fine fettle here, too, after he set the pace in both sessions.

Despite drops of rain, the afternoon running took part largely in dry conditions, and the high-speed Monza layout appears to suit the grunt of the Ferrari engine.

But Mercedes’ Hamilton, who is bidding for a record sixth win in Italy, is in contention to deny Leclerc back-to-back victories, and Ferrari their first home win in almost a decade.

Fernando Alonso was the last driver to triumph in Monza for Ferrari in 2010, with Hamilton winning four of the last five races staged here.

One more on Sunday will move the Briton ahead of Michael Schumacher as the all-time master of Monza with six triumphs.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished fifth for Red Bull, 0.369 seconds down on Leclerc. However, the Dutchman will start Sunday’s race from the back of the field, penalised for taking on Honda’s upgraded engine.

Joining Verstappen down the grid will be British teenager Lando Norris, also punished for engine part changes after his McLaren team were unable to salvage the failure which robbed him of a career-best fifth in Belgium.

Norris was struck by further mechanical problems in second practice and finished a lowly 18th.

Earlier, the opening running was suspended twice after Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez crashed out.

In wet conditions, both men lost control of their cars and ended up in the wall. Raikkonen finished 14th in the day’s concluding running, with Perez 16th.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Italian GP: Lewis Hamilton set to wrap up sixth title and other talking points

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The Italian Grand Prix this weekend plays host to the 14th round of the Formula One campaign.

Lewis Hamilton holds a 65-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in his pursuit of a sixth world championship.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five talking points ahead of Sunday’s race at Monza.

Safety in the spotlight after Hubert tragedy

Formula One mourned its first driver tragedy at a grand prix weekend following Anthoine Hubert’s tragic death at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend. The incident will put the sport’s safety record back in the spotlight at Monza, the fastest track on the Formula One calendar which is also known as the Cathedral of Speed. An FIA investigation, led by Australian race director Michael Masi, is being conducted, Belgian police are also carrying out their own inquiry into last Saturday’s accident and Giuliano Alesi’s car has been impounded by the authorities. The Frenchman lost control of his machine, appearing to cause Hubert to take evasive action. Meanwhile, Juan-Manuel Correa, the American driver who tore through Hubert’s car, has been transferred to a London hospital. Correa broke both his legs and suffered spinal cord damage in the 160mph crash.

Leclerc leading Ferrari’s charge

leclerc

Under the cloud of his friend Hubert’s death, Charles Leclerc registered his maiden Formula One victory. The young Monegasque impressed all weekend in Spa, and will start this weekend as the favourite to triumph in front of the Tifoisi. Just as with Spa, the high-speed Monza layout is likely to suit Leclerc’s Ferrari machinery. Sebastian Vettel will be desperate to strike back following his rather drab fourth place. Vettel’s race in Belgium was hindered by a two-stop strategy, but he was comfortably slower than Leclerc, leading Nico Rosberg to say he looked like Rubens Barrichello, the Brazilian who played second fiddle to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. “Just waving past your team-mate, and helping him out,” said Rosberg. “Amazing for a four-time world champion. He won’t be happy with that.”

Hamilton set to wrap up title number six

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton warned before the last race that the title wasn’t over. Yet, despite a rather tricky weekend – Hamilton suffered a mechanical failure on Friday before crashing out of final practice – the Mercedes star still managed to extend his title lead. The 34-year-old delivered an impressive race performance to hustle Leclerc to the flag, finishing second and increasing his lead over Valtteri Bottas to 65 points. There are just 200 points left to play for. A matter of when, not if, for the five-time world champion…

Grid penalty scuppers Verstappen’s chances

Max Verstappen (1)

Max Verstappen had been billed as the man who may thwart Hamilton’s charge to the championship following a strong end to the opening half of the season. But the Dutchman crashed out on the first lap of the Belgian Grand Prix, following a collision with Kimi Raikkonen. He will also start Sunday’s race from the back of the pack, penalised for taking on an upgraded Honda engine for the final round of the European campaign. Verstappen is 87 points behind Hamilton and could trail him by more than a ton once the weekend is out.

Five more years

The Italian Grand Prix will remain at Monza until at least the end of 2024. The track, which has hosted more races (68) than any other, announced a new deal with F1’s owners’ Liberty Media on the eve of the 90th Italian GP. Only Italy and Britain have staged a race every year since the sport’s inception in 1950. Next year’s calendar will feature a record 22 races with the return of a round in Holland and the addition of the Vietnam Grand Prix. The race in Germany has been dropped due to financial difficulties.

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