Daniel Ricciardo in the first row of the Italian Grand Prix
Posted On September 12, 2021
Valtteri Bottas continued a fantastic weekend by winning the Italian Grand Prix sprint on a miserable Saturday afternoon for Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who saw title rival Max Verstappen take pole position and extend his lead in the ranking.
Verstappen has pole position and Daniel Ricciardo will also start from the front row.
“It’s been a long time to be in this position. It’s good to be back!” Ricciardo said to the huge cheers of the Italian crowd.
“We’re just giving the fans what they want to see – Max and Dan back in the front row,” Ricciardo joked in a joint interview with Vertsappen after the race.
“The first six months were tough, but having the August break to get away from it all and get back to zero.
“I think I just needed that time away.
“I feel a lot better. We need more summer vacation.
“The podium is the goal. It’s the target.”
The McLaren driver finished 14,534 behind Bottas, who leaves Mercedes at the end of the season for Alfa Romeo.
Bottas finished the 18 laps with 2325 seconds ahead of Verstappen, but he will start from the back of the grid on Sunday because he will take a new unit of power and will receive a penalty for it.
“It’s the perfect weekend so far. But it’s happening,” Bottas said. “We have a solid car here, a good pace and I will fight tomorrow.
“Anything is possible … you never know, so I’ll keep pushing.”
Hamilton was fifth, more than 20 seconds behind his teammate after a dismal start.
“It’s not the result we wanted for today and we can’t afford days like these, especially when the championships are so close,” said Hamilton.
“It is highly improbable but not impossible that we can achieve the victory,” added Hamilton.
“It’s damage control at the moment. It should be a very easy race for Max unless I can get past the two McLarens early on and then challenge him.”
Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff appeared more optimistic.
“First of all, starts can happen. Between heroes and zero on a start, there is such a nice margin,” he said. “Sometimes there is too much skating. It bit us today, but there is still a lot to play for tomorrow.”
Verstappen extended his championship lead to five points after getting two points for finishing second. The Red Bull rider knows he is about to end his run of poor results at Monza after securing his first pole position on the famous track.
“If you have a good start, that should be enough to defend,” Verstappen said. “It was just a reasonable push (today), you just have to see where the pace was.
“I mean, Valtteri was already on the road a bit after a lap or two, so see where the car was. I never really felt like a passing was going on … I also knew of course even if I stayed second I’ll start first tomorrow. “
It was the second qualifying sprint after his debut at Silverstone.
Rather than the standard format of two practice on Friday and a third practice and qualifying on Saturday, there was a practice on Friday followed by a qualifying session which determined the grid for the sprint on Saturday.
Qualifying for the sprint drew mixed reviews, with some calling Saturday’s exit a motorcade.
“I mean there haven’t been a lot of passes, if any, in the two races we’ve had. I still think it’s a good experience,” said Hamilton. “I’m always proud of F1 for trying something new. There will definitely be lessons to be learned from these sprint races and I’m sure we can adapt it for next year.”
Bottas was the fastest in qualifying on Friday so he started just ahead of Hamilton. But the seven-time world champion had a nightmare start and quickly dropped to sixth place.
Hamilton climbed to fifth place after Pierre Gasly – a surprise winner at Monza last year – hit the back of another car and crashed into the barriers at the first corner. He will start the race behind Lando Norris and just ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who won the Italian team’s home race in 2019.
Hamilton is a five-time Temple of Speed winner and has three more podiums on the track.
In contrast, Verstappen never set foot on the iconic Monza podium, with a better fifth place in 2018.
After finishing a hoodoo by taking pole, he hopes to finish another.
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