Aiming for pole record, Lewis Hamilton tops opening Monza practice

Published 5:58 a.m. ET Sept. 1, 2017 | Updated 10:17 a.m. ET Sept. 1, 2017

MONZA, Italy (AP) — Lewis Hamilton is on course to break Michael Schumacher’s pole position record after leading Friday’s opening practice session for the Italian Grand Prix in rainy conditions.

Despite apparent struggles with his grip — even before the track was slickened by rain — Hamilton finished nearly half a second ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas as both Mercedes drivers positioned comfortably in front of their rival Ferraris.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who holds a seven-point lead over Hamilton, came third, 1.115 seconds behind, and teammate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, 1.152 behind.

Hamilton enters the weekend tied for the Formula One pole position record with Schumacher, with 68 each.

Ferrari, meanwhile, is looking to celebrate its 70th anniversary with a victory at its home race.

Conditions were difficult, with rain falling on some parts of the circuit while other areas were bathed in sunshine. More serious rain fell throughout for the final…

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