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Red Bull’s Verstappen in pole at Italian Grand Prix

By AFP - Sep 11,2021 - Last updated at Sep 11,2021

Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates with his medal after placing second in the sprint session in Monza, on Saturday, on the eve of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix (AFP photo by Andrej Isakovic)

MONZA, Italy — Max Verstappen will start the Italian Grand Prix in pole position despite finishing second in Saturday’s qualifying sprint at Monza.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the 18-lap race ahead of Verstappen but the Finn was already condemned to start Sunday’s race at the back of the grid after being penalised for taking on power unit components in qualifying on Friday.

Red Bull’s Verstappen also claimed two championship points to extend his lead on Lewis Hamilton to five after the reigning champion finished fifth, some 20 seconds off the pace.

“That went a little bit better than expected,” said Verstappen. 

“Up to second, scored some points, up to pole tomorrow. It’s going to be an interesting battle tomorrow.” 

Hamilton had started the sprint in second behind teammate Bottas but was overtaken by Verstappen and dropped back in the field after a dreadful start which will make his latest bid for a 100th victory that much harder.

Alongside Verstappen on the front row will be McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who also breezed past Hamilton in the opening moments and held on to third position to claim second in the grid.

Ricciardo promised “full attack” against Verstappen on Sunday even though he finished over 12 seconds behind the Dutchman and he will have his teammate Lando Norris backing him up in the second row after he finished fourth.

Seven-time F1 champion Hamilton has been stuck on 99 wins since victory at the British GP in July, but after strong displays in both practices and qualifying looked in good shape to make his century.

However, he will have his work cut out for him from the second row after Verstappen and Ricciardo came up either side of him in a chaotic start.

French AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly would also have stolen a place on the Briton had he not then slid off the track at the first bend after making contact with Ricciardo.

“We’ve got to try and figure out how to get by the McLarens tomorrow and try and limit the damage,” said a disappointed Hamilton.

“Now they [Red Bull] are on pole so it should be an easy race win.”

Just behind Hamilton in the third row will be Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who won at Monza in 2019 and is hoping for the home support to help push the Scuderia to another good result.

His teammate Carlos Sainz will be alongside him after finishing seventh having crashed out of practice earlier on Saturday and then having to sweat on his car being repaired in time for the sprint.

 

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