x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Red Bull's Vettel and Webber set down an early marker for Italian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton conceded that Sebastian Vettel had outpaced him on a hot afternoon at the Autodromo Nazionale, but said that he can bounce back on Saturday at Monza for a fifth consecutive pole.

If his chasers cannot straighten out their problems it looks certain Sebastian Vettel will grab the pole for the Italian Grand Prix.
If his chasers cannot straighten out their problems it looks certain Sebastian Vettel will grab the pole for the Italian Grand Prix.

MONZA, Italy // Lewis Hamilton called for his Mercedes team to react, again, with an overnight rethink after Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull domination of Friday's opening practice for this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, 28, conceded that Vettel had outpaced him on a hot afternoon at the Autodromo Nazionale, but said that he can bounce back for a fifth consecutive pole on Saturday.

"It has been quite a smooth day. OK, we're not as fast as the Red Bulls, but we are still confident," he said. "The Red Bull is very quick, but generally my car feels good, so I have to sit down tonight and try and understand things.

"I feel like I am on the limit everywhere and the car feels reasonably balanced.

"Maybe we are running too much wing? We'll have to see … Right now, it doesn't look massively strong for me for tomorrow, but hopefully we can improve the pace.

"You don't know what fuel loads people are on, so we will wait and see."

Hamilton, like Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, has made it clear that he has to cut into Vettel's massive lead in the drivers' championship at the next two races if he is to stay in the hunt.

The Briton may draw some comfort from the knowledge that though Vettel has won twice at Monza, compared to his sole win, Red Bull has registered only one Italian victory from 16 starts since 2005 and regards the Autodromo Nazionale as an unlucky circuit.

The winner at Monza, however, has started from pole 10 times in the past 13 years - a statistic that makes it clear that Vettel's rivals need to overhaul the Red Bull duo to boost their title challenges.

Both Vettel and teammate Mark Webber were reluctant to gloat.

"The car is certainly not in bad shape," Webber said. "We just want to get a better package out of what we have got.

"We need to work harder on short and long runs. Seb had one lap there that was well clear of everybody, which you can do sometimes."

Vettel said: "It was a good day, but it is still only a Friday. It looks tight. If you look at it too much it can be a distraction, but I think it will be a close qualifying with many cars up there.

"Tomorrow, I expect it to be close. It is a short lap and there are not too many corners, so not that much you can do right and not much you can do wrong."

Vettel topped the times ahead of Webber with some ease, the defending triple world champion going fastest throughout before clocking one minute and 24.453 seconds, leaving the German six-10ths of a second clear of the Australian.

Webber was second, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and his Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean, with Alonso fifth for Ferrari and Hamilton sixth for Mercedes.

Hamilton had been fastest in the morning's opening session, ahead of Alonso, but the pair were unable to mount a serious threat in the afternoon heat as the Red Bull duo delivered a stunning demonstration of consistent speed.

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was seventh, ahead of Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari, and the improved McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez.

 

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