Hamilton fastest in first Italian GP practice at Monza

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the first free practice session for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Friday morning.

The Mercedes driver posted a quickest lap time of 1:26.187 to finish over six-tenths clear of McLaren’s Jenson Button in second place, while Nico Rosberg could only come home two-tenths further back in third.

[ VIDEO: Watch full replay of FP2 ]

Hamilton heads into this weekend’s race at Monza in search of his first win since the British Grand Prix at the beginning of July. Over the past three races, Rosberg has managed to extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 29 points, and their intra-team relationship has soured following a run-in at the Belgian Grand Prix.

In the first practice session on Friday though, Hamilton was the man to come out on top, even if he did run wide on one occasion. He recovered well by giving the fans a quick wave from his cockpit.

Fernando Alonso gave the Ferrari fans in Italy something to smile about by finishing fourth, and with Kimi Raikkonen in seventh, the team may be in better stead at Monza than many expected. Kevin Magnussen backed up Button’s charge to P2 by finishing fifth, suggesting that McLaren could be set for one of its best results of the year at Monza. However, the team did have to fix a problem with the headrest on Button’s car when it came loose.

Red Bull enjoyed a less successful session, though. Sebastian Vettel finished fifth, but teammate Daniel Ricciardo had to settle for 16th place thanks to a problem on his RB10 car.

Sergio Perez finished eighth for Force India in a limited session after he handed the car over to reserve driver Daniel Juncadella for the first thirty minutes. The Spaniard finished down in 17th place.

Roberto Merhi got his first taste of a Formula 1 car during practice for Caterham, and finished two-tenths up on full-time driver Marcus Ericsson at the back of the field. Charles Pic could only finish 21st for Lotus in his first practice run of the season.

Be sure to join us for FP2 live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET today.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).