F1: Lewis Hamilton fastest as Mercedes drivers lead Monza practice

F1 Lewis Hamilton fastest
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MONZA, Italy — Mercedes again topped the F1 leaderboard as Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas in second practice Friday for the Italian Grand Prix.

The championship leader finished 0.262 ahead of Bottas, who was quickest in first practice. McLaren driver Lando Norris was third, .897 slower than Hamilton.

During a mediocre season for the home track team, Ferrari improved slightly in the second session at its home track. Sebastian Vettel went from 19th in P1 to 12th, and Charles Leclerc moved from 11th to ninth, but both were more than a second slower than Hamilton.

Both Ferrari drivers ran off track, and Leclerc was heard saying over team radio, “The car is so hard to drive.”

Hamilton has won five of the seven races and is 47 points ahead of Red Bull rival Max Verstappen and 50 ahead of Bottas.

Verstappen was fifth in the second session, 1.036 slower than Hamilton. He finished in the same position in first practice after spinning at the Ascari chicane, sidelining him for 25 minutes as his car was repaired.

“Not a good day struggling with grip and balance in general,” Verstappen said. “So quite a bit of work to do.”

Earlier, Bottas posted the fastest time in first practice. The Finnish driver’s best lap was .245 seconds quicker than Hamilton and .797 ahead of Red Bull driver Alexander Albon.

It was the fourth consecutive time that Bottas has been quickest in the first practice session, but he has only won one race.

A third and final practice takes place Saturday ahead of qualifying in the afternoon.

There will be a smattering of spectators at Monza on Sunday with 250 health workers invited to attend in recognition of their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, FIA President Jean Todt and Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, visited nearby Bergamo to pay tribute to the work carried out worldwide against COVID-19. Bergamo is one of the Italian cities hardest hit by the coronavirus.

“Bergamo is a symbol, in Italy and in the world, for the spirit with which doctors, nurses, hospital and Red Cross personnel have worked and are working in these difficult times,” said Angelo Sticchi Damiani, president of the Automobile Club of Italy.

“This is why ACI has decided to invite 250 of them to attend the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, so that institutions, ACI, FIA, drivers, teams and fans all over the world can give them the thanks and applause they deserve.”

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.