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Vettel can thrill Tifosi with strong Saturday showing

Mercedes set Monza pace on opening day

Sebastian Vettel in action during practice at Monza
1 of 1

Italian Grand Prix practice three
Sky Sports F1, 10am Saturday
Qualifying
Sky Sports F1, 1pm Saturday

Lewis Hamilton can become the driver with the most Formula One pole positions in history this weekend after he tied Michael Schumacher's record of 68 in Belgium last time.

Bookmakers rate the Mercedes driver a strong odds-on favourite to get the job done in Italian Grand Prix qualifying at Monza with what would be his eighth pole of the year.

Expected rainstorms failed to materialise in Friday practice, but the timesheets proved more predictable than the weather.

Mercedes ended the day on top, with Valtteri Bottas a whisker ahead of Hamilton. Home favourites Ferrari were next up, close enough to give them some hope, followed by the Red Bulls at a more respectful distance.

Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are set for an entertaining race as they will take 20-place and 15-place grid penalties respectively for engine changes. Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz will also suffer grid drops.

McLaren pair Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne ended Monza practice day seventh and eighth - far higher than would have been expected given their significant top-speed deficit - after taking turns to slipstream each other.

Sebastian Vettel qualified second at Spa last week thanks in part to being towed around the fastest sections of the track in the slipstream of his teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

It wasn't exactly planned - Raikkonen had abandoned his fast lap after a mistake - but it would be no surprise to see them repeat the tactic at Monza.

Ferrari are clearly throwing their weight behind Vettel's championship challenge, so would probably be more likely to try it than Mercedes, who are still giving their drivers equal treatment.

Vettel is 6-1 to qualify on pole position for the third time this season, and with bookmakers paying a third the odds for two places he could be worth backing each-way.

However, the German four-time world champion looks an even better bet in the practice three market.

All year Ferrari have tended to up their form on a Saturday, and Vettel has topped the final 60-minute practice session on seven occasions.

Vettel ended Friday's running just 0.140 seconds off the leading pace, which suggests he should certainly be in the hunt for the rest of the weekend.

Recommendations
S Vettel fastest in P3
2pts 4-1 bet365, Paddy Power
S Vettel fastest qualifier
1pt each-way 6-1 general


Venue Monza, near Milan
Number of laps 53
Lap length 5.793km
Lap record 1.21.046 R Barrichello (Ferrari) 2004
Schedule – practice three 10am Saturday; qualifying 1pm Saturday; race 1pm Sunday
TV All live on Sky Sports F1
Circuit characteristics Monza is not as fast as it once was but the Cathedral of Speed is still dominated by long straights. There are two tight chicanes which provide good overtaking ­opportunities. 
DRS zones Before the first and third chicanes
Tyre allocation Medium (white), soft (yellow) and supersoft (red)
Last five years’ winner (grid) N Rosberg (2), L Hamilton (1), L Hamilton (1), S Vettel (1), L Hamilton (1)
Last year Lewis Hamilton looked peerless in qualifying but fluffed his start, dropping to sixth. He fought his way back up to second with 35 laps to go, but Nico Rosberg had built an unassailable lead by then.
2016 pole L Hamilton, 1.21.135
2016 fastest lap F Alonso, 1.25.340 on lap 51
2016 classified finishers 18/22
Reason for retirements Collision (2), mechanical (2)
Weather A chance of showers today but the race is expected to be dry.

Vettel has topped the final 60-minute practice session on seven occasions
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