F1 Raceweek: Hamilton not feeling like the enemy at Monza

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Lewis Hamilton feels at home at Monza rather than in the "enemy's back garden" as he strives for a victory in Ferrari's home race.

Hamilton reduced Sebastian Vettel's lead to only seven points by winning his 200th Formula One race in Belgium last weekend and set the pace in the first practice session at the Italian Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in FP2 on Friday, Hamilton second in a promising start for Mercedes and Vettel only 0.140 seconds slower than the Finn.

Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will be backed by a huge contingent of passionate Ferrari supporters in the second race after the mid-season break this weekend.

Hamilton, aiming to surpass Michael Schumacher's tally of 68 pole positions and start on the front of the grid for a record sixth time at the prestigious Italian track, said he does not feel any hostility at Monza.

"Many years ago I felt that I was in the enemy's back garden, but since the last maybe four, five years I felt such a warm welcome here from the Ferrari fans, which is much appreciated as now every time I come I rather feel at home." said the Brit. 

"I love it here, not only because the track is amazing. When I turn up here at the gate, obviously there are a lot of Ferrari fans here, and maybe at least 50 per cent of them say 'Come to Ferrari, come to Ferrari'."

 

BOTTAS BACK ON TRACK AS MERCEDES DOMINATE PRACTICE

Bottas missed out on a podium finish at Spa-Francorchamps after making a mistake following the restart, but set the quickest time in practice six days later.

The former Williams driver crossed the line in fifth at the Belgium Grand Prix, paying the price for an error which Daniel Ricciardo and Raikkonen took advantage of, having been third when the safety car was deployed.

Bottas' lap of one minute 21.406 seconds in FP2 was the fastest of the day, but his team-mate was only 0.056 secs adrift and Vettel just 0.14secs off the pace.

Hamilton led the way in FP1 ahead of Bottas, with the Ferraris unable to get within a second of the three-time world champion first time around.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz suffered engine trouble in the second session on his 23rd birthday, while Kevin Magnussen's Haas broke down with a suspension breakage in FP2.

 

RED BULL DUO, ALONSO AND SAINZ PAY THE PENALTY 

Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be up against it at Monza after the Red Bull duo were among four drivers to be given grid penalties.

Australian Ricciardo was buoyed by a third-placed finish last weekend, but has been given a 20-place penalty for having new power unit components fitted to his Red Bull.

Verstappen faces a 15-spot hit following alterations made by Red Bull, while Fernando Alonso will be at the back of the grid again after a 35-place penalty was imposed for a host of changes were made to his McLaren.

Birthday boy Sainz will take a 10-place demotion for a fifth MGU-H on the Renault power unit of his Toro Rosso.

 

STANDINGS
Drivers
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 220 points
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 213 points 
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) -  179 points
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) - 132 points
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - 128 points

Constructors
1. Mercedes - 392 points
2. Ferrari - 348 points
3. Red Bull - 199 points
4. Force India - 103 points
5. Williams - 45 points

PREVIOUS WINNERS
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Lewis Hamilton
2014: Lewis Hamilton

WEATHER FORECAST

There was rain during the first practice session and there could be showers over the weekend, but warm temperatures are expected.