F1 Raceweek: Ferraris closest to Mercedes in Friday practice


Ferrari gave home fans some cause for optimism as they ran Mercedes closest in the opening two free practice sessions at Monza.

The Italian outfit have endured a difficult season and are yet to register a victory in 2016, failing to reach the podium in the last four races.

Red Bull have emerged as the main challengers to Mercedes' dominance, but Ferrari found some pace with their upgraded power unit to finish third and fourth in both sessions on Friday.

Nico Rosberg - nine points adrift of championship leader Hamilton following his victory in Belgium last weekend - was fastest in FP1, posting a time of one minute and 22.959 seconds.

However, Hamilton - second in FP1 - went 0.193secs quicker than his Mercedes team-mate in the second session, signalling his intention to return to the front of the field after allowing the grid penalties to pile up at Spa.

While Sebastian Vettel in the quickest Ferrari was 0.453secs off Hamilton's pace, the almost half a second between the German and Max Verstappen in the top-performing Red Bull is an encouraging sign.

Kimi Raikkonen, who had outpaced Vettel in FP1, was fourth, with Daniel Ricciardo more than 1.2secs down on Hamitlon.

Fernando Alonso surprised many by going seventh fastest on a circuit he expected to provide McLaren with their toughest challenge of the season, while Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean filled the gap between the Spaniard and team-mate Jenson Button in 10th.