F1: Lewis Hamilton fastest as Mercedes drivers lead Monza practice

F1 Lewis Hamilton fastest
Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
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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.”