Bottas claims Sprint pole at Monza


Ahead of today's qualifying session the air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 34 degrees. It remains bring and sunny with 0% chance of rain.

Lewis Hamilton set the pace earlier, ahead of Verstappen, Bottas, Stroll and Gasly. However, interestingly, neither Mercedes driver tried the softs, unlike their Red Bull rivals.

Out-pacing Verstappen by almost 0.5s, it remains to be seen if Mercedes can maintain - or even increase - the gap, or whether Red Bull was keeping its powder dry.

A number of drivers, most notably Norris, had times deleted earlier after exceeding track limits in the Parabolica, however the issue this afternoon, is likely to be traffic as drivers seek clear track ahead of their flying laps.

In recent years this has been a particular problem here, and last year contributed to turning the race on its head.

Unlike regular qualifying, drivers do not have to use the tyres they use in Q2, so, much like Silverstone it is a free for all.

The lights go green and first out, much to the fans delight, are the Ferrari pair, Leclerc followed by Sainz. They are followed by Mazepin, Tsunoda, Schumacher and Russell.

Schumacher has his out lap deleted for exceeding the limits at Turn 11, which means his next (flying) lap is deleted also.

Leclerc gets things underway with a 22.801, while Sainz, with the aid of a two from Norris, responds with a 22.495.

Verstappen crosses the line at 22.108, as Tsunoda goes third, ahead of Russell and Latifi.

A 21.681 sees Norris go top.

"Something felt wrong," reports Leclerc, however he is told the matter - whatever it is - will be discussed in the garage.

Hamilton goes quickest in S1, while teammate Bottas goes quickest in the second sector. At the line it's 20.804 for Bottas and 20.543 for the world champion, out-pacing Verstappen by 1.5s.

Ricciardo goes third, ahead of Gasly, Giovinazzi, Norris and Perez.

Nine minutes in and all bar the4 Alpines have posted times.

Leclerc heads out for his second run, followed by Sainz, the pair almost tripping up over Mazepin who looked to be released into their path.

"What the f***," complains Verstappen as he's involved in silliness involving Vettel and an Alpine.

Meanwhile, as is ever the case here, the cars are forming a queue as they seek clear air.

Norris goes third and Alonso eighth, while Ocon can only manage 12th.

"I don't believe that," shouts Gasly, as the Frenchman, on a hot lap, comes across a queue of slow cars at Ascari, all on the racing line.

Verstappen, having completed two slow-down laps, improves to third with a 21.035.

With under five minutes remaining, Latifi, Russell, Schumacher, Mazepin and Kubica comprise the drop zone, with Ocon, Vettel, Tsunoda and Stroll hovering.

"It's so difficult to drive, so difficult," moans Leclerc, his problem thought to relate to engine mapping.

Bottas improves to 20.804 but remains 0.261s off his teammate's pace. While Norris' previous best is deleted.

Russell goes 11th and his Williams teammate 13th as the clock ticks down to 2:15.

"Mick has to get a move on," says Mazepin, though his teammate has five or six cars ahead of him.

As the final assault gets underway there are plenty of greens in S1 and again in S2.

Perez goes 7th, Vettel 8th, Stroll 9th.

Ocon goes 11th and Giovinazzi a mighty fifth.

Norris goes third, Alonso 13th and Ocon 14th.

However there's late drama when Tsunoda has his time deleted, thereby promoting Russell to 15th.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Bottas, Norris, Verstappen, Sainz, Giovinazzi, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Perez and Vettel.

We lose Latifi, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Kubica and Mazepin.

As the lights go green for Q2, the drew is working furiously on Leclerc's car.

First out are the Red Bulls, with Perez leading the way. As more drivers head out, Russell is tucked in behind his soon to be new teammate.

"Manage the pace Checo, do what you have to do."

Leclerc heads out.

No sooner has Hamilton eclipsed the Bulls in S1 than Giovinazzi, then Ricciardo go quicker.

Perez posts 21.146 and Verstappen 20.710, but Bottas responds with a 20.032 and Hamilton a 19.936, 0.774s up on the Red Bull.

Gasly splits the Mercedes and Red Bull pairs with a 20.654, only to be demoted when Norris and Ricciardo go third and fourth.

"I still have the problem," reports Leclerc as he goes ninth (21.140). The youngster lists a number of issues.

Following an off, Alonso has pitted without posting a time.

At which point it is revealed that, in a strategic move, Bottas has taken on a new power unit and will start Sunday's race from the back of the grid.

"Unbelievable what they are doing here," says Verstappen as the drivers continues to back one another up.

Meanwhile, there is an incident in the pitlane involving the Aston Martins, Hamilton and an Alpine mechanic, as Stroll is released into the path of the Mercedes.

This really is an accident waiting to happen.

Norris goes quickest in S1 as Verstappen goes third overall. The Briton leapfrogs the Red Bull driver with a 20.059.

Ricciardo goes fifth, ahead of Gasly and Giovinazzi, as the Aston Martin and Alpine duos fails to make the cut.

"I'm sorry," says Vettel, "maybe I took it too easy in Turn 6."

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Bottas, Norris, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Sainz, Leclerc and Perez.

We lose Vettel, Stroll, Alonso, Ocon and Russell.

Check out our Friday gallery from Monza, here.

Heading into Q3 it looks to be an all Mercedes front-row, unless Red Bull, or even McLaren, has something in reserve.

Brilliant job so far by Giovinazzi, who, by all accounts, is fighting for his job.

The lights go green and the Mercedes pair are first out, followed by Gasly and the Bulls. The Ferraris are running together as are the McLaren pair. Giovinazzi sits tight in his garage.

Bottas posts 20.388, while Hamilton, without the benefit of a tow, posts 19.949.

Verstappen responds with 19.966, just 0.017s down on Hamilton, the Dutch driver benefitting from a double tow from Gasly and Perez.

Norris goes third, ahead of Ricciardo, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz and Perez.

The Bulls are first out for the final run, again Perez leads the way. At Mercedes, Bottas leads the way.

Giovinazzi finally heads out, while Norris is last to emerge.

Bottas goes quickest in S1, while Gasly is setting a strong pace in S2.

Perez crosses the line to go 8th while Verstappen fails to improve.

Bottas stops the clock at 19.555 to take pole, while Hamilton locks out the front row with a 19.651.

So, while he will start Sunday's race from the back of the grid, Bottas will start the sprint from pole.

He will start alongside his Mercedes teammate, while Verstappen will start third, ahead of Norris, Ricciardo, Gasly, Sainz, Leclerc, Perez and Giovinazzi.

Vettel will start eleventh, ahead of Stroll, Alonso, Ocon, Russell, Latifi, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Kubica and Mazepin.

"For us, at this track, it's always going to be difficult," admits Verstappen. "We recovered quite well throughout qualifying, I'm happy to be third. In the race we expect to be closer."

"Every point count," adds Hamilton. "Congratulations to Valtteri, mega lap. It was looking good from our side up to then but he just went quicker and I couldn't match it.

"The Italian fans, it's so good to see them here... the weather's been great, and what an amazing circuit."

"That qualifying lap was nice," grins Bottas, "it feels so good when you get a nice lap, it was nice to get a tow finally.

"I feel good, relaxed and everything is sorted for the future. The car feels so good, focus on tomorrow's Sprint race, try to take maximum points and see what we can do on Sunday.

Check out our Friday gallery from Monza, here.

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Published: 10/09/2021
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