Bottas best in Monza qualifying

Valtteri Bottas will start the Italian Grand Prix sprint race from the head of the grid after beating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the quickest time of qualifying.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

The Finn needed two laps to contend, having thrown away his first lap to a wide moment over the stones at the Roggia chicane while Hamilton topped the order, but his second lap was clean and rapid to usurp his teammate by just 0.096 seconds.

The famous Monza circuit near Milan is hosting Formula 1’s second sprint-race trial of the season, following on from its first running at the British Grand Prix. Qualifying has been moved to Friday to accommodate a 30-minute race in its place on Saturday, which sets the grid for the grand prix on Sunday.

Three points on offer for winning the sprint, with two for second place and one for third.

Bottas will start the race, which requires no pit stops, as the favourite to convert, but the Finn is also carrying a back-of-grid penalty for an engine change, meaning he’s sure to start the grand prix from the back regardless of his Saturday fortunes.

“I’m really pleased with the team today,” he said. “The car is so good.

“Starting from the front, I’m expecting to get the maximum points tomorrow and then do the best job we can on Sunday.”

Hamilton will start alongside Bottas poised to take pole for Sunday’s race, but the Briton, who trails Max Verstappen by three points in the championship, was eyeing the extra points from the sprint.

“Every point counts,” he said. “There has been a lot of points lost this year on both sides.

“These sprint races can definitely add and help.”

Verstappen will start third, which the title leader praised as a strong result for a circuit he had long foreshadowed as poorly suiting the Red Bull Racing package.

“I think for us this track is always going to be difficult,” he said. “I think for the race hopefully it can be a bit closer. You never know around here.”

Underlining Red Bull Racing’s weakness was that both McLaren drivers were less than 0.03 seconds behind him, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo closely matched in fourth and fifth.

Pierre Gasly will start sixth for AlphaTauri ahead of Ferrari teammates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

Sergio Perez qualified an unrepresentative ninth after using his laps to give teammate Verstappen a slipstream to ensure a higher grid position for the lead driver, while Antonio Giovinazzi qualified 10th for Alfa Romeo.

Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll for Aston Martin and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon qualified 11th to 14th after the rival midfield teams almost caused an enormous accident in pit lane at the end of the middle qualifying segment.

Vettel was released into Hamilton’s path, causing both to slow, but Stroll was subsequently released regardless to find his own space, almost collecting his mechanic in the pit lane. Alonso was then released just ahead of the three oncoming cars, all of which came perilously close to hitting an Alpine mechanic.

Track position for qualifying in Monza is tactical, with the slipstream potentially very valuable, but the stewards took a dim view of the jockeying and scheduled an investigation for after the session.

Williams driver Nicholas Latifi will start the sprint 16th ahead of the recontracted Yuki Tsunoda for AlphaTauri.

Mick Schumacher was knocked out 18th ahead of Robert Kubica, who continues to deputise for the COVID-19-positive Kimi Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo, and Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin.