Noch Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the sprint qualification in Monza. However, Max Verstappen was able to feel that he was the winner of the short-term spectacle in the Royal Park. The Dutchman will be able to tackle the Italian Grand Prix this Sunday (3 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker, on RTL and Sky) from position one, because Bottas has been given a penalty in his Mercedes for an unauthorized engine change.
In addition, thanks to the two points for second place in the sprint over 18 laps on the high-speed circuit in Monza, the winner of the last two Grand Prix increased his lead over Hamilton to five points. “Better than expected,” said the Dutchman with a smile on Saturday. Hamilton lost places with a completely messed up start on the dirtier side from position two, but in the end it was not more than fifth. The seven-time world champion couldn’t get past the McLaren duo Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris either. “I had too much spinning wheels,” explained Hamilton, suspecting: “It will be a lot of work to limit the damage.”
Sebastian Vettel was only twelfth in the Aston Martin. After a so-called brake plate right at the beginning, there wasn’t much in it for the four-time world champion. “To be honest, I was glad that I saw the checkered flag at all and didn’t have to pit,” said the 34-year-old. Mick Schumacher did not get past 19th place in the defeated Haas. He said he had “made a mistake”.
But they should be better prepared for the race than for the sprint, which got off to an eventful start in front of the 28,000 registered Tifosi at the Autodromo Nazionale. Bottas, who had secured first place on Friday against Hamilton at the last minute, got off really well, as did Verstappen from third place. Hamilton from the dirtier side in second place but not at all. Mercedes had feared that, Red Bull hoped.
Hamilton fell back to fifth when the safety car had to go out after a few 100 meters: Pierre Gasly, sensational winner at the Grand Prix a year ago, got off the track, slid over the gravel and crashed into the tire wall with his Toro Rosso.
After three laps the safety car turned back into the pits and Bottas mastered the restart excellently. Verstappen had no chance to overtake the Finn, who will have to leave Mercedes after this season and then drive for Alfa Romeo. Hamilton was stuck behind it and couldn’t get any further. The hope of catching up with Verstappen in the classification after the sprint faded with every lap, while Bottas drove to victory safely at the front. “I’m enjoying it today,” he said after the split from the Silver Arrows was announced earlier this week.
It was only the second time this year that the sprint took place on Saturday to determine the starting grid. At Silverstone, Verstappen had won ahead of Hamilton. In the race on Sunday there was a serious collision between the two, Verstappen retired, Hamilton won.
Another Grand Prix weekend is planned for this year, during which the usual qualifying will take place in three knockout sections on Friday in order to determine the order on the so-called grid for the sprint. In the shortened races, the teams have a free choice of tires and pit stops are not mandatory.