Championship leader Max Verstappen will start from third for sprint qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix, after qualifying behind both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team cars in Friday qualifying. Red Bull Racing team-mate Sergio Pérez starts ninth.
It was a typically messy qualifying session at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, with the entirety of the grid waiting for an all important tow around the low downforce track. The Dutchman was fortunate however, with the team sacrificing Pérez to give Verstappen a tow on his fastest lap in final qualifying.
This decision proved pivotal, with both Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo almost out-qualifying Verstappen, in what could have been a huge moment in the championship. Nevertheless third is the best Verstappen could salvage, with pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas and championship rival Lewis Hamilton simply being too quick.
Overall it was a challenging opening day for Verstappen, who is hoping to find some more performance in Free Practice Two before sprint qualifying.
“It wasn’t the best qualifying session but I think for us this track is always going to be difficult. We struggled a little bit more than we wanted to in FP1, but I think we recovered quite well throughout qualifying. I’m happy with third and it would have been unrealistic to hope for more. I think for the sprint race maybe we can be closer but you never know around here, so of course we will try and keep the pressure on.
“We’ve got FP2 tomorrow morning so we can see what we can do to help the long run pace a bit more but for us it will be more difficult around here with the long straights, nevertheless I hope we can score good points tomorrow.”
“Our long runs looked promising” – Sergio Pérez
It was an equally difficult Friday for Sergio Pérez, the Mexican starts sprint qualifying from ninth after not having a tow on his fastest lap. Pérez is hopeful however that his long run pace is strong after a promising Free Practice One, although the Mexican is aware that a DRS train could make any progress through the field difficult to come by.
“We definitely struggled in qualifying today. Tomorrow our aim in the sprint race is to try to gain some positions and come through the field strong, I think this will be difficult with the DRS train though. Our long runs looked promising today and a lot of things can happen during a race so we’ll see what happens, I’m looking forward to it. We will try to optimise our performance for a strong race on Sunday.”