Hamilton bounces back after troubled week to post fastest time in Monza practice

Lewis Hamilton has set the early pace in practice for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Story highlights

  • Lewis Hamilton fastest in Friday's practice for the Italian Grand Prix
  • McLaren star shrugs off rumors he will be quitting McLaren
  • Michael Schumacher tops time sheets in morning session for Mercedes
  • Ma Quing Hua first Chinese driver to compete in F1

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton bounced back after a torrid week to post the fastest time Friday in free practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was taken out in the opening corner at Spa last weekend, had to remove postings on his Twitter account which divulged sensitive team information and then fend off rumors he had already sealed a deal to drive for Mercedes next season.

Undaunted, the 27-year-old took the honors in the afternoon session with a one minute 25.290 seconds clocking at Monza, just edging out teammate and fellow Briton Jenson Button, who won last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

They were ahead of Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso, the championship leader, and Felipe Massa, both hoping to put on strong performances in their home grand prix.

Alonso had suffered an engine failure in the morning session, which was topped by former Ferrari favorite and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher for Mercedes.

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Reports have suggested Hamilton will replace the 43-year-old German next season, but the 2008 world champion has side stepped questions on the subject.

"I don't want to talk about it," he told the official F1 website. "I want to stay concentrated on this race, I don't have a deadline for sorting this out.

    "There's a long way to go until the end of this season and Jenson showed the potential of our car last weekend and I just want to focus on that."

    German Nico Rosberg was fifth fastest for Mercedes in the afternoon runs ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.

    Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio finished 12th quickest in the second Lotus, replacing Romain Grosjean of France, who has been banned for a race after being held responsible for the early crash at Spa on Sunday.

    F1 history was made in the morning session as Ma Quing Hua became the first Chinese driver to compete at the highest level of motorsport.

    The HRT development driver was nearly six seconds slower than Schumacher but avoided problems and might have recorded a much faster lap but for a small mistake in sector two.

    India's Narain Karthikeyan took over in the afternoon and left the crash after a minor crash which briefly held up the session.

    Alonso takes a 24-point lead over two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel into Sunday's race with another Red Bull driver, Mark Webber of Australia, a further eight points adrift.

    But both Red Bulls were off the pace in practice taking 11th and 13th fastest in the afternoon.