First place in the Qualifying Sprint, complete with an Olympics-style victory medal, is not enough to give Valtteri Bottas pole position for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Instead, it is an unlikely Max Verstappen who will lead the field away for the fastest race on the Formula One calendar.
Bottas will still start from the back of the grid for Mercedes-AMG after a complete powertrain change, while second in the Sprint means Verstappen has the early advantage for the race despite the expected dominance of the Black Arrows on the high-speed Monza circuit.
Lewis Hamilton is only fourth on the grid after a disastrous start in the Sprint, with too much wheelspin, left him fifth in the Saturday qualifier behind Bottas, Verstappen, a beaming Daniel Ricciardo and his McLaren team mate Lando Norris.
“It’s not done yet, but it will be,” says Ricciardo, who could be speaking for any of the potential front-runners.
Verstappen was the real winner from the Sprint, but admits it will be tough to win the real thing.
“They have a bit more pace than us, we know we are slower than the Mercedes here,” says Verstappen.
“To be on pole tomorrow at a track like this is a real positive for us, we had a good start and the race went better than expected. We scored a few championship points and it’s great to be starting at the front.
“I still expect a tough race tomorrow as Lewis is starting in P4 and I’m hoping for another clean start tomorrow so I can create a bit of a gap at the beginning, because I will definitely need it later in the race. It’s going to be an interesting battle and we’ll see what happens, we’ll keep pushing and try to make the most out of it.”
Hamilton confessed to a clutch problem and a poor race, a situation he plans to remedy for the race.
“It was a frustrating day for me. It was difficult to get close enough to overtake the McLarens so we’ll be looking into that as well. We lost valuable points today and we’ll need to work hard to take maximum points tomorrow,” he says.
The other loser from the Sprint is Pierre Gasly, but his misfortune moved Ricciardo into the third place he felt he had deserved from Friday qualifying.
“It’s really nice to be up there. We had a good start, that was important, but I knew we could. Our starts have been great all year, so we had the potential,” reports Ricciardo.
“I tried to get Max [Verstappen] in Turn One. I had a really good run – I was able to brake quite late, but he also had a decent run into the turn, so I tried to hang on the outside and then I could see that I was running out of room, so I had to come out of it. I think that’s where I got hit from behind. That’s just one of those situations but obviously I’m sorry for Pierre [Gasly]. It was nice to gain a couple of positions, and then we settled into a rhythm.
“I didn’t have the pace to keep Valtteri [Bottas] and Max in sight, but at least I was pulling away from the others. It was a lonely but happy third and a front row tomorrow. It’s not done yet, but it will be.”
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
- Lando Norris, McLaren
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
- Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
- Antoni Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull
- Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
- Fernando Alonso, Alpine
- Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
- Esteban Ocon, Alpine
- Nicholas Latifi, Williams
- George Russell, Williams
- Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
- Nikita Mazepin, Haas
- Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo
- Mick Schumacher, Haas
- Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri