Leclerc fastest in both practice sessions for Italian GP

MONZA, Italy (AP) — Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc posted the fastest time Friday in both practice sessions for the Italian Grand Prix, giving the team hope that it can end a nine-year wait for victory on home soil.

Having already led the morning session, Leclerc was .068 seconds ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon and 0.201 clear of Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari hasn’t won its home race since Fernando Alonso triumphed at Monza in 2010. But Leclerc claimed his first victory in Formula One last weekend at the Belgian GP.

The second practice was less dramatic than the first, although it did begin to rain again — having cleared up toward the end of the morning — and the session was temporarily halted while gravel was cleared from the track.

There were three red flags during the first practice session, including crashes by Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez. Both walked away unscathed.

McLaren duo Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris finished second and third in that session, .306 seconds and .545 behind Leclerc, respectively.

Hamilton was fourth fastest, 0.825 seconds off the pace, while Vettel was more than two seconds slower than the leader in wet conditions that caused several cars to spin off the track.

Hamilton, a five-time world champion, has a 65-point lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the standings.

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