Aiming for pole record, Hamilton tops opening Monza practice

Britain driver Lewis Hamilton steers his Mercedes. (Antonio Calanni/AP)

MONZA, Italy — 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 is looking to break a tie for the Formula One pole position record with Schumacher. They have 68 each.

Conditions were difficult, with rain falling on some parts of the circuit while other areas were bathed in sunshine.