Hamilton intends to extend Mercedes deal at end of season

Lewis Hamilton says he's improving with age after victory in 200th race

Seven points in it, eight races to go.

Valtteri Bottas kept Mercedes top of the pile in second practice for the Italian Grand Prix, a session which saw Ferrari and championship leader Sebastian Vettel close to within 0.140s.

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.

Hamilton ended the morning session quickest in Monza, but Bottas reminded the Formula 1 world of his talents after topping his team-mate with an even faster time of one minute, 21.406 seconds later in the day.

The 31-year-old also made it clear that he is not looking at other options and remains fully committed to his current team with whom he has won two titles in the last three years.

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"To see the moves that happen following those calls - such as Sebastian signing for Ferrari - is interesting".

Back in 2004, Juan-Pablo Montoya recorded the fastest lap in F1 history at the track - clocking an average speed of 162.95 miles per hour (262.24 kph) in a Williams auto.

Only a win in Italy can save Bottas from having his title hopes extinguished at the end of the European season.

Ferrari is celebrating its 70th anniversary at Monza this weekend and has arrived to its home race in front of a fervent home crowd. "Going there on a warm September afternoon - there's nothing like it". Can Vettel respond at Monza?

Hot on the heels of his strong performance in Belgium last weekend when he hounded victor Lewis Hamilton all the way to the chequered flag, on a circuit on which the Englishman's Mercedes was expected to excel, Vettel said he had been very happy with that result.

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Look at it this way: Monza is another high-speed circuit where Mercedes is presumed to hold the advantage, and a dominant win there would suggest that the team's difficulties in Belgium were just a hiccup.

"People talk about our vehicle being the best, that we have the fastest auto, but I think it's very hard for anyone to truly say that because there are pros and cons between two cars and areas where we are faster and they are faster". "He's on top form, the car's working well, but he's being pushed". I think it was a good day - at least I have a better feeling than I had after the Friday in Spa, everything started on the right foot. We try hard everywhere, but probably the emotions would be bigger here.

Given the seesaw nature of the Vettel/Hamilton rivalry this year, it's anyone's guess how the drama will unfold in the coming weeks as the season shifts from Europe to Asia then onto North America.

"It's something we have given a lot of thought to over the last couple of weeks", he said. "We've always said this circuit wouldn't suit our package, and we expect a tough challenge".

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