Monza: Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was excused Italian Grand Prix media duties on Thursday due to what his Mercedes team said was an “unavoidable personal commitment”.

The team gave no details but said he would not be arriving in Monza until Thursday evening, missing the official driver autograph session for fans.

The championship leader, last year’s winner from pole position at Monza, is 17 points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with eight races remaining.

Practice for Sunday’s race starts on Friday.

Meanwhile, German driver Sebastian Vettel has crashed his Ferrari into a barrier at a Formula 1 exhibition event at Monza.

The show was organised ahead of Sunday’s race, which was also attended by Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) and Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) on Wednesday.

Hundreds of fans turned up to see the pilots drive the 2018 models, as well as enjoy a classic car parade and check out the F1 safety car, the Mercedes-AMG GT R, Efe news reported.

The drivers also dedicated a few words to their fans, and Vettel said that they will participate in a “nice race” during Ferrari’s home Grand Prix.

The German is coming off a victory last weekend in Belgium that left him 17 points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.