MONZA, Italy, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton dominated first practice for the Italian Grand Prix on Friday, lapping more than a second quicker than Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
The Mercedes driver, who will take over at the top of the Formula One standings if he wins at Ferrari’s home track, lapped the fastest circuit on the calendar with a best time of one minute 21.537 seconds.
Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas made it a one-two for the reigning champions on a cloudy morning session with the occasional drop of rain with a time 0.435 seconds slower than Hamilton.
Vettel, the four times world champion who is seven points clear of Hamilton after 12 of 20 races, was third fastest in 1:22.652 with his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen fourth in 1:22.689.
The Red Bull pairing of Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen followed, with both facing grid penalties for Sunday’s race, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.
The latter pair can expect team orders restricting their ability to race each other after twice coming together in Belgium.
In a surprising turn up for struggling McLaren, whose Honda engine has been short of both performance and reliability, Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne was ninth quickest.
The Ferrari fans will take heart that Mercedes also looked strong in Belgian Grand Prix practice at Spa last weekend only for Ferrari to then close the gap with Vettel on Hamilton’s tail throughout the race.
“I think going into this weekend we need to be fair and say that the track layout suits Mercedes but the performance that we showed last week gives us hope,” Vettel told reporters on Thursday. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)