Lewis Hamilton to sign new Mercedes contract before end of season

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Ferrari's ominous pace continued in practice for the Italian GP at Monza today as Sebastian Vettel lapped within fourteen hundredths of Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes. "It's the fastest circuit on the calendar in terms of outright speed.", said Alonso.

So after the round of runs the order was Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, Ocon, Sainz and Hulkenberg.

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who finished fourth in both sessions, was left unhappy with his day's work after struggling with balance and set-up on his side of the garage. "Going there on a warm September afternoon - there's nothing like it".

Hamilton was 0.435 seconds clear of his Finnish team-mate as he delivered the pace to suggest he may be able to dominate the weekend, win Sunday's race and take the championship lead from Vettel for the first time this year.

Vettel had been linked to Mercedes in media speculation, and the team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said last weekend there had been some contact as the German considered his options.

Vettel and Hamilton both have 17 scoring finishes in a row. The Italian stable last won the drivers' title in 2007, courtesy of Raikkonen.

It is a mark of how competitive this season has been, but Hamilton has a great chance to end that statistic this weekend as well as taking the championship lead for the first time in 2017. "He's on top form, the car's working well, but he's being pushed. But last weekend was so close - so there's nothing in it".

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Ferrari are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the company's first racing auto and are holding a demonstration of cars from across the decades ahead of the race.

"I don't think he was leaving anything behind, if he had opportunity properly to pass me I think he would have tried, and I think that is fair enough - I think it would have been same the other way around".

Spa showed us its greatness from all aspects as a hugely challenging track.

Given the seesaw nature of the Vettel/Hamilton rivalry this year, it's anyone's guess how the drama will unfold in the coming weeks as the season shifts from Europe to Asia then onto North America.

"It's the feeling when you step into a Ferrari, when you sit in a Ferrari, I don't know, you can step into another auto but you don't get the same feeling".

"I know (team boss) Toto (Wolff) said that we will wait until the end of the season because that is what I like to do". Then there's Japan and that's Mercedes - it's got fast, sweeping corners rather like Silverstone. "So you've also got to read the play and see what happens in a few years time as opposed to just next year".

Hamilton returned to Monza this week after winning three of the previous five Grands Prix held at the legendary Italian venue, and Friday's early performances suggested he might make it four in the past six.

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