Hamilton sets early pace

Lewis Hamilton was in dominant, confident mood in first practice for the Italian Grand Prix (AP)

Lewis Hamilton was in dominant, confident mood in first practice for the Italian Grand Prix (AP)

First published in National Sport © by

Lewis Hamilton blitzed first practice ahead of the Italian Grand Prix as he set his sights on again reeling in Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in the battle for the Formula One world title.

Unusually, there was no Mercedes lockout of the top two places as instead Hamilton spearheaded a British one-two, with McLaren's Jenson Button second on the timesheet around one of the sport's historic tracks, Monza.

Hamilton, though, was in a class of his own as he finished 0.623secs ahead of Button, with Rosberg forced to settle for only third best, with the German 0.808secs down.

In light of what transpired in Belgium a fortnight ago, with Rosberg deliberately opting not to pull out of a collision with Hamilton on lap two which wrecked the Briton's race, the focus has been more intense than usual on the duo.

Despite apologising and paying a significant six-figure fine handed down by Mercedes, Rosberg still emerged from the event with a further 18 points more than Hamilton, and is now 29 ahead in the standings.

That has placed additional pressure on Hamilton to enjoy a clean weekend, something that has eluded him for some considerable time.

At least his time of one minute 26.187secs laid down a marker he means business this weekend.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso also managed to finish within a second of Hamilton, lapping 0.982secs off the pace.

Suggesting McLaren could be in for a strong weekend, Kevin Magnussen was fifth quickest, just over a second back on Hamilton, and four tenths of a second down on Button.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was sixth, a fraction down on Magnussen, with Kimi Raikkonen seventh quickest in his Ferrari.

Force India duo Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg sandwiched Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat to complete the top 10.

As for Daniel Ricciardo, winner of the last two races in Hungary and Belgium, the Australian was down in 16th, 2.3secs down.

Throughout the 90-minute session four test drivers were handed an outing, with Daniel Juncadella at Force India unusually given the opening half-hour in place of Perez.

The 23-year-old Spaniard completed 10 laps, with his best three seconds down on Hamilton as he finished 17th.

Sauber's Giedo van der Garde, in for Adrian Sutil, finished two places and eight tenths of a second ahead of Juncadella.

Further down the grid, Charles Pic took over FP1 duties from fellow Frenchman Romain Grosjean at Lotus, finishing 21st and nearly four seconds back.

At troubled Caterham, with another Spaniard in Roberto Merhi making his rookie outing in place of Kamui Kobayashi, the 23-year-old was 22nd on the timesheet.

Merhi completed 29 laps, with his best 4.5secs off the pace, but quicker than team-mate Marcus Ericsson who propped up the standings as he was a further two tenths of a second adrift.

Marussia's Max Chilton was 19th, 3.8secs back, but ahead of team-mate Jules Bianchi.

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