Vettel poised for duel with Hamilton at Italian GP

Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel looks set for a duel with Lewis Hamilton at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Updated: September 09, 2011 20:37 IST
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Monza: Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel looks set for a duel with Lewis Hamilton at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel led Hamilton by 0.036 seconds in afternoon practice on Friday, while Hamilton and McLaren teammate Jenson Button finished 1-2 in front of Vettel in the morning session.


Michael Schumacher of Mercedes, a five-time winner at Monza when he was with Ferrari, might also be poised for a resurgence after placing third in the afternoon, while Ferrari struggled in both sessions at its home race.

Vettel became the youngest winner in F1 history when he won at Monza in 2008 at 21 when he was with Toro Rosso, but his fourth-place finish last year was Red Bull's best result at the circuit.

Red Bull is eager to improve its record this weekend because Vettel has won seven of the 12 races thus far this season and could wrap up a second consecutive championship at the next race in Singapore.

Hamilton has also never won at the historic track north of Milan, with his best finish a second place during his rookie season in 2007. The British driver has two wins this season but is only fifth in the standings following a series of accidents that have marred six of his races.

Hamilton had a chance at leading both practices, but he ran into traffic in the afternoon, slamming on his breaks after nearly running into Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso just as he was finishing a fast lap.

Hamilton also reported a problem with his clutch late in the second session.

The 42-year-old Schumacher, meanwhile, had an up and down day. He was fortunate to avoid the wall after losing control midway through the 180-degree Parabolica turn during the morning, then had to back off the throttle suddenly during the middle of the same turn in the afternoon to keep the car from hitting the gravel again.

Fernando Alonso won this race with Ferrari last year, but the local fans - or "tifosi" as they are more affectionately called - might not get such a treat this year.

Alonso was only seventh in the morning after his session was cut short by an apparent cut left rear tyre, and he finished fifth behind Felipe Massa in the afternoon.

Alonso's British GP win in Silverstone in July was Ferrari's only win this year, as the Italian team continues to struggle with the new Pirelli tyres.

Tyres are key in Monza, which is the fastest track in the sport, with average speeds of 250 kph (155 mph) and top speeds of 340 kph (211 mph).

The track's layout - slow corners followed by long, high-speed straights - means drivers should also get optimal use out of their drag reduction systems (DRS) - adjustable rear wings - and the KERS power boosts.

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