Formula One: Record hunter Verstappen fastest in first Monza practice

AFP , Friday 1 Sep 2023

Max Verstappen got his bid for a record 10th straight Formula One win off to a promising start by topping the times in Friday's first practice session for the Italian Grand Prix.

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen looks on in his car during first practice session, ahead of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit, in Monza on September 1, 2023. Photo: AFP


Reigning world champion Verstappen posted a best time of one minute 22.657 seconds, 0.046sec ahead of Carlos Sainz as Ferrari stopped dominant Red Bull from making it a one-two at the top of the leaderboard at Monza.

Red Bull have won every one of this year's 13 races so far with Verstappen claiming 11, including the last nine, and Sergio Perez winning the other two.

Verstappen equalled Sebastian Vettel's record for consecutive wins after victory at his home Dutch GP last weekend.

Perez, who trails Verstappen by 138 points in the drivers' championship, finished the session 0.177sec back in third.

Lewis Hamilton was 0.612sec off the pace in eighth a day after Mercedes announced that the seven-time F1 champion had signed a new deal until 2025 which will extend his career beyond his 40th birthday.

On Thursday Hamilton, 38, said he had "unfinished business" with the sport and that he is convinced he can win more GPs and world championships with the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton relinquished his position as the number one driver in F1 in 2021 when he was controversially beaten to the drivers' title by Verstappen on the final day of the season.

Last season he failed to win or claim pole position at any GP for the first time in his career, while this year he is yet to add to his record 103 race victories.

Hamilton, 183 points behind Verstappen in the driver's standings, finished 0.08sec behind his teammate George Russell who will also stay with Mercedes until 2025.

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