• Reuters

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Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton set the pace in practice for the Italian Grand Prix on Friday with dominant Mercedes turning on the power and leaving its rivals trailing.

The Briton, who will be chasing his 11th pole position in 12 races on Saturday, told reporters on arriving at Monza with his hair dyed blond that he was going through an “experimental” phase.

There was nothing radically different in his track performance, however, only clear evidence that the upgraded Mercedes power unit was faster than ever.

The championship leader, 28 points clear of closest rival and teammate Nico Rosberg with eight races remaining, lapped nearly half a second faster than the German in sunny morning conditions.

The Briton, winner of six races so far this season, was however only 0.021 quicker than Rosberg in the afternoon, when he produced his fastest lap of one minute, 24.279 seconds on the quickest track on the calendar.

“Today was a good day,” said Hamilton. “I had a bit of a break in the second session but it was just so the team could check a few spikes in the data and everything was OK in the end.

“I didn’t particularly hook up the first two sectors this afternoon, they were definitely better in the morning,” he added. “So I’m sure there’s some pace to find and I’ll be looking through the data tonight to find it.”

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