BACK ON TOP: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton bounced back with the fastest lap in second practice for the Italian GP. Image: AFP / Loic Venance
Monza, Italy, Sept 2, 2016 (AFP) -Championship leader Lewis Hamilton bounced back to top the times ahead of his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg in Friday's second free practice for this weekend's 2016 Italian Grand Prix.
The defending three-time world champion, who leads Rosberg by nine points in the title race, was second behind him in Friday's opening session.
On a hot late summer's afternoon at the old Autodromo Nazionale in Monza's former royal park, the 31-year-old Briton clocked a best lap in 1min22.801 seconds to outpace German Rosberg by 0.193 seconds.
50th race win
Hamilton is seeking to complete a hat-trick of successive Italian wins and to claim his 50th Formula 1 victory in Sunday's race.
Four-time former champion Sebastian Vettel was third fastest ahead of his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen, the Italian team closing the gap behind the Mercedes to less than half a second as they made use of their latest upgraded power units.
Under-scrutiny Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who was given a gentle warning about his aggressive style of driving by the FIA's race director Charlie Whiting earlier in the day, was fifth ahead of his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Former Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was seventh for McLaren ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Williams with Romain Grosjean of Haas and Jenson Button, in the second McLaren, completing the top ten.
Both Ferrari drivers and both Mercedes men topped the times at different periods of the session before Hamilton took control in a straightforward session lacking in major incident.
Verstappen 'doesn't care'
Verstappen and the Red Bull team manager Jonathan Wheatley met Whiting before the morning practice to discuss Verstappen's performance at last Sunday's 2016 Belgian Grand Prix.
After the meeting Red Bull team chief Christian Horner told reporters that Whiting had told Verstappen he risked disqualification if continued with the aggressive style that prompted criticism from both Ferrari drivers and others.
Horner said: "Charlie was keen to show him a video of Spa. It was a gentle warning... Like any 18-year-old, the criticism (from other drivers) seems to be going in one ear and out the other. He really doesn't care."
He added: "We're all here talking about it and it's that spirit that he's got that is bringing fans trackside."
Hamilton had managed a clean sweep in 2015 by topping all the practice sessions and taking pole position en route to victory, but his hopes of a repeat were ended by Rosberg in the first session.
Rosberg is seeking his first victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
Brazilian Felipe Massa, who on Thursday announced his impending retirement from F1, was 11th in his Williams and Kevin Magnussen, who limped away from a high speed crash in his Renault in Belgium last Sunday, was 19th.