F1: Hamilton Scores Record Breaking 69th Pole at Italian GP Qualifying

Mercedes set to retain Valtteri Bottas next season after team boss Toto Wolff said new contract was a 'no brainer'

Mercedes set to retain Valtteri Bottas next season after team boss Toto Wolff said new contract was a 'no brainer'

Ericsson trailed Sauber team-mate Wehrlein by nearly a second after the wet-tyre running, but beat him to the 18th quickest time by 0.143s with a late improvement on intermediates.

Bottas' best lap of one minute and 21.406 seconds enabled him to finish just five hundredths of a second clear of Hamilton.

"I think going into this weekend we need to be fair and say that the track layout suits Mercedes but the performance that we showed last week gives us hope", Vettel told reporters on Thursday.

Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas also bossed the opening two practice sessions, sending a message to Vettel and Ferrari in the process.

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.

"We will have to work a little bit on the vehicle to make the most of it".

Suspicion arose that Hamilton, 32, could switch to Ferrari if Vettel declined their offer of a new contract, but confirmation of his three-year extension, formally announced last weekend, has restricted the British driver's short-term options. Except that he would have to roll up the sleeves by the qualifying session. It was an epic day, I feel truly blessed.

"We're a paying customer and it's obviously below par - the service that we're seeing at this point in time, because of the reliability issues".

"I know Toto has said we should wait until the season because that's generally what we like to do".

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Added right back Graham Zusi: "They performed their gameplan better than we did". "We'll move on", added Arena. "Our back line made some mistakes", Arena said in his postgame press conference.

A few moments after Bottas had recorded the best lap of the session, Hamilton had a better pace before the last sector.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 69th career pole position to break the Formula One record previously held by his childhood idol, Michael Schumacher.

Bottas, who was previously with Williams, led Friday's second practice.

The afternoon session was held in ideal conditions after rain fell in the morning.

The Red Bull cars were again fifth and sixth, with Max Verstappen leading teammate Daniel Ricciardo in a flip-flop from the morning.

Both Red Bulls, of course, have heavy grid penalties for using additional power unit elements and will thus start Sunday's race from the back of the field - likewise Hulkenberg, Palmer, Alonso and Sainz.

Sure, Lewis Hamilton set a new record and ended up on top of the pile, but look at that top ten - Force India and Williams both ahead of two Ferraris, and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne up in the mix too.

"The answer is, we would like to keep our options open because every race you can not plan for all scenarios". But I missed my flying lap because of a head-to-tail. "Now it is what it is and we'll see what we can do tomorrow".