Lewis Hamilton sets practice pace at Monza

Lewis Hamilton laid down a dominant marker in first practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion finished four tenths clear of title rival Max Verstappen, with Valtteri Bottas third in the other Mercedes.

Hamilton heads into the 14th round of the campaign here in Monza trailing Verstappen by three points.

Formula One will stage its second sprint race on Saturday, with qualifying brought forward to Friday evening. 

It means the opening one-hour running here will count as the sole action before the grid is determined, and Hamilton, who last won at the British Grand Prix almost two months ago, holds the early advantage.

The so-called Temple of Speed suits the grunt in the back of Hamilton’s Mercedes, with Verstappen trailing by almost half-a-second. Hamilton also set his best time on the slower medium tyre compound.

Bottas, who will be replaced by George Russell at the Silver Arrows next year, ended the session 0.525 sec adrift of Hamilton. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll took fourth with Pierre Gasly, last year’s surprise winner fifth for AlphaTauri, and Sebastian Vettel sixth.

British driver Lando Norris briefly took second place but his speediest lap was deleted for exceeding track limits. Qualifying takes place at 1700BST.