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Accident Alert: Hamilton, Rosberg to duel again

MONZA, Italy (AP) — Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are poised for another wing-to-wing duel in the Italian Grand Prix.

After colliding in Belgium two weeks ago and ensuing disciplinary measures, the Mercedes rivals qualified 1-2 on Saturday and it will be tough for the pair to avoid each other entering the tricky first chicane at the Monza circuit.

“I’ve been racing for many years and I haven’t collided with too many people. So I’ll just continue to race the way I do,” Hamilton said after breaking Rosberg’s stranglehold on pole position. “I just want to win the right way.”

Rosberg had taken four straight poles and six of the last seven.

Hamilton clocked 1 minute, 24.109 seconds, Rosberg was second in 1:24.383, and Valtteri Bottas of Williams qualified third in 1:24.697 for his third top-three qualifying spot in four races.

Rosberg holds a 29-point lead over Hamilton in the standings, the biggest it has been all season.

A big part of the gap was built in the controversial Belgian GP in Spa, where Rosberg finished second after crashing into Hamilton early and sending out his teammate. Rosberg was disciplined by Mercedes, and while no team orders were installed, the pair was told explicitly not to make contact again.

“In more difficult times you learn the most,” said Rosberg, who was booed on the podium in Spa. “I’ve learned a lot of things.”

Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff was more categorical about the lessons offered.

“This is Mercedes and we don’t expect them to crash (into) each other, even if the championship is secure,” he said. “But the championship is not secured. We have seven races to go and this why we must get our head down now and get back to scoring points.

“We haven’t done that very well in Hungary and in Spa,” Wolff added, referring to the last two races, which were both won by Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull. “Maybe in a few races we have a completely different situation and again we assess, and then maybe it’s about unleashing the leash a little bit more.”

When Hamilton was asked what effect the team’s warning would have on him on Sunday, he replied: “It won’t be ringing in my ears. We are free to race. That was the decision last week so it continues as usual.”

Rosberg reportedly received a hefty fine for the Spa incident but he, too, didn’t appear ready to change tactics.

“It has not changed since before we started the season,” Rosberg said. “The message has been clear. There is no real change at the moment. It is the same as always.”

The relations between the drivers also appeared unchanged.

Rosberg didn’t seem interested in congratulating Hamilton on his pole position. Likewise, Hamilton appeared to do his best to ignore Rosberg after they got out of their cars.

After taking off his helmet, Hamilton flashed a victory sign to photographers while Rosberg appeared to frown behind him.

Another team meeting might be in place before Sunday’s race.

“I imagine the bosses are always nervous, because they’re passionate and both their drivers are at the front,” Hamilton said.

Racing conditions were ideal on Saturday, with sunny skies and 25-degrees (77 F) temperatures, and more good weather was forecast for Sunday.

Felipe Massa of Williams qualified fourth, and Kevin Magnussen of McLaren was fifth.

Home Ferrari favorite Fernando Alonso was only seventh, defending champion Sebastian Vettel eighth, and his teammate Ricciardo ninth.

“I was really at the limit today,” Alonso said.

Mercedes’ dominance was clear on the series’ fastest track, where speeds average about 250 kph (155 mph) and top speeds exceed 350 kph (around 220 mph).

Hamilton missed an hour of practice on Friday due to electrical problems and Rosberg was slowed in Saturday’s third and final practice with a gearbox glitch, making their performances all the more impressive.

“Inside the garage … they’ve done a remarkable job in bouncing back,” Hamilton said. “It’s great to have a 1-2.”

Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso posted the 11th-best time but will start 21st due to a 10-place penalty for a sixth engine change — becoming the first driver this season to be sanctioned by new power unit regulations.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen went out in Q2 after abandoning a lap due to traffic. The 2007 F1 champion placed 12th but will start 11th due to Kvyat’s penalty.

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Associated Press writer Daniella Matar contributed.

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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