Bottas sprints fastest but Verstappen takes pole

Max Verstappen will start the Italian Grand Prix from pole position after Saturday sprint winner Valtteri Bottas is handed a grid penalty for an engine change.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

Bottas was fastest in qualifying on Friday and started the half-hour Saturday sprint race from the head of the grid, which he converted into an effortless victory over Verstappen after teammate Lewis Hamilton slipped from second to fifth at lights out.

According to Formula 1’s experimental sprint race weekend format, in action for the second time this season in Italy, the results of the sprint race will determine the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

But despite Bottas’s win, the Finn will drop from the front of the grid to the back with a penalty for installing a brand-new engine beyond his pool of three motors. Mercedes is expecting to have a sizable pace advantage this weekend with which to recover positions and thus considered the exchange an astute tactical move.

“The speed is there, so I’ll be fighting,” he said. “I’ll be coming up as high as I can tomorrow.”

Combined with Hamilton’s poor getaway from the line, Verstappen ended Saturday as the biggest winner, inheriting pole position without a Mercedes in sight and adding two points to his title lead.

“A little bit better than expected,” he summarised. “We had a good start and got up to second, we scored some nice little points and of course we’re starting on pole.

“It’s going to be an interesting battle tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo will start second on the grid after finishing third, the Australian getting a sweet launch from fifth to jump Hamilton and teammate Lando Norris.

“Tomorrow’s the important one, but we gain a position from Valtteri’s problems, so we’re on the front row, and that’s been a long time, so very happy for that,” he said.

Norris finished fourth ahead of Hamilton after a race-long duel won by the younger Briton in what might be a warning sign for the prospects of Bottas’s recovery drive on Sunday.

Charles Leclerc led Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in sixth and seventh ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.

Sergio Perez finished ninth after a late pass on Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, though the Mexican was being investigated by the stewards for passing the Canadian off the track and not giving the place back quickly enough.

Fernando Alonso beat Sebastian Vettel to 11th, with Esteban Ocon 13th ahead of Williams duo Nicholas Latifi and George Russell.

Yuki Tsunoda had to make a stop for a new front wing after tipping Robert Kubica into a spin on the first lap, the pair finishing 16th and 18th, between them Nikita Mazepin.

Mick Schumacher finished 19th and last, with Pierre Gasly the only retirement, the Frenchman crashing with a broken front wing on the first lap.