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Hamilton paces first Monza F1 practice for Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton set the pace through the opening Formula 1 practice session for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Friday, heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes on Ferrari home soil.

Hamilton is looking to become the first driver to win back-to-back races in 2017 this weekend at Monza, having cut the gap to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the drivers’ championship down to just seven points with victory at Spa last Sunday.

Hamilton started as he will mean to go on in FP1 by setting the pace in the Mercedes W08, posting a fastest lap time of 1:21.537 to finish four-tenths of a second clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

With the high-speed nature of Monza’s layout tipped to favor Mercedes, the German marque’s display was ominous as title rival Ferrari could not get within a second of Hamilton’s time, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finishing third and fourth respectively.

Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen wound up fifth and sixth overall, a further one-tenth of a second back from the Ferraris, while Force India’s warring duo of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon took seventh and eighth place.

Stoffel Vandoorne led McLaren’s charge through FP1 in ninth, while Felipe Massa rounded out the top 10 for Williams, two seconds off Hamilton’s time.

The session went by without major incident, with the threatening clouds over Monza only producing light spits of rain from time-to-time that were not heavy enough to limit running or warrant the use of the intermediate tire.

With heavier rain expected for FP2 later this afternoon, though, the majority of teams aimed to include some of their long-run program in their FP1 running.

Second practice for the Italian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Sunday.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.