Mercedes top first Italian F1 GP practice

Mercedes Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dominated Friday’s opening practice session for the Italian Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel spun out at low speed after setting the third-fastest time in his Ferrari.

Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr also spun out, more seriously, and slid off the track and had to abandon his car.

Hamilton clocked 1 minute, 24.670 seconds around the high-speed Monza circuit, known for its long straightaways. The championship leader was nearly half a second faster than Rosberg, his nearest challenger, who became a father for the first time last weekend.

Vettel was more than 1.5 seconds behind.

Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were fifth and sixth, respectively, and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen was sixth, ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull (1:26.922).

Mercedes-powered cars took eight of the top 10 spots, with only the Ferraris preventing a sweep.

Vettel, racing at Monza for the first time as a Ferrari driver, went too fast into the first chicane and his rear wheels gave way.

“A bit greedy on the settings,” the German told his team over the radio as he was able to get going again. “Just lost the rear.”

Sainz lost control at the 180-degree Parabolica turn.

“I don’t know why I lost the car in the braking, but I’m OK,” he told Toro Rosso.

After frightening tyre deterioration incidents for Rosberg and Vettel in Belgium two weeks ago and an ensuing investigation from sole supplier Pirelli, there was more worry from Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen.

After the Dutchman wobbled through Parabolica following only four laps on a set of medium rubber, he radioed his team, “I have no rear tyres left. I’m having a lot of trouble with traction now.”

Vettel was among several drivers who put a sticker on their helmet to commemorate the death of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson. The sticker contained an image of Wilson’s helmet with the words, “Rest in peace, Justin”.

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