Blistering Bottas secures Sprint Qualifying pole

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas has claimed provisional pole position for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, and will start Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying from top spot.

A blistering lap from the Finn saw him rocket to the top with his final lap despite towing Lewis Hamilton to the line.

Max Verstappen secured third in a case of damage limitation for the Red Bull driver who just didn’t have the pace of the two Mercedes.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s strong practice potential resulted in fourth and fifth for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, the pair split by just 0.02s.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz enjoyed the benefit of a tow on his first timed lap to record a 1:22.495s to open the session with the fastest time.

It lasted only until Verstappen completed his initial lap, a 1:22.108s, a time pipped by Norris with a 1:21.681s.

Hamilton’s first effort was a flyer, a 1:20.542s to easily post the fastest time of the session.

That was supported by team-mate Bottas, who crossed the beam seconds before Hamilton’s lap at 1:20.804s.

Third best was Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian posting a 1:21.292s at the first time of asking.

Verstappen’s initial lap featured a mistake at the second chicane, the Dutchman dropping a wheel into the gravel on corner exit after picking up some mid-corner oversteer.

His second lap then had to be aborted when the Red Bull driver encountered a freight train of cars on approach to the second chicane.

Esteban Ocon encountered the same traffic jam seconds later but was able to scythe his way through unhindered.

Pierre Gasly had a lap ruined when he encountered Charles Leclerc on the apex as he turned into Variante Ascari.

Verstappen eventually improved to third, setting a 1:21.035s.

With a minute of Qualifying 1 remaining, another traffic jam formed on approach to the Parabolica – 13 of the 20 cars on track.

It somehow worked out without incident, those missing the cut were Nicholas Latifi, Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher, Robert Kubica, and Nikita Mazepin.

George Russell had initially been eliminated, before Tsunoda had his best lap deleted for track limits at the Parabolica, dropping him into the bottom five and out of the session.

Stewards noted a number of incidents during the segment, including one between Kubica and Mazepin, and another between Leclerc and the Russian.

No investigation was needed on the latter, with the former to be investigated post-session.

Hamilton banked a 1:19.936s on his first timed lap in Qualifying 2, a time some seven tenths clear of Verstappen’s initial effort of 1:20.710s.

Bottas was second best on a 1:20.032s while the second Red Bull, that of Sergio Perez, left the Mexican at risk in 10th with a 1:21.146s.

A busy pit lane in the final minutes of the session saw near contact between Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

The Aston Martin was sent out into the path of the Mercedes, narrowly avoiding an Alpine mechanic in the process.

Officials soon noted the incident, confirming they’d investigate it post-session.

Frustrated as he exited the lane, Verstappen blazed by four cars as he joined the track, just two minutes remaining in the session as he did so.

As the chequered flag fell, Vettel, Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, and Russell all missed the cut.

Making it through into Qualifying 3 for the second time in as many weeks was Antonio Giovinazzi, the Alfa Romeo Sauber driver the fastest Ferrari-powered car in the session.

As the final segment of the session began, nine of the 10 remaining runners headed out – Giovinazzi the only one to remain in the garage.

Verstappen was in the wheel tracks of Perez, who in turn followed Pierre Gasly, the Red Bulls looking to use the slipstream in the former’s favour.

Bottas was the first to set a time, his 1:20.388s quickly bumped by Hamilton’s 1:19.949s.

The Finn was further demoted by Verstappen and both McLarens, Norris ahead of Ricciardo to leave the Mercedes just fifth.

With two minutes remaining, all 10 runners headed out on track, Giovinazzi for his first lap in the segment.

The two Red Bulls were at the head of the train, Perez leading Verstappen while at the other end of the field Norris trailed the two Mercedes.

Verstappen wasn’t able to improve, the Dutchman remaining second provisionally before dropping to third when Bottas shot to the top with a 1:19.555s.

An improved final lap saw Ricciardo leap ahead of Norris, only for his team-mate to reverse the order once again, the difference between the two McLarens just 0.02s.

Gasly ended the session sixth from Carlos Sainz, Leclerc, Perez, and Giovinazzi.

A 60-minute practice session follows on Saturday morning before the 30-minute Sprint Qualifying session at 00:30 AEST Sunday morning.

Results: Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying

Pos Num Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:20.685 1:20.032 1:19.555
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.543 1:19.936 1:19.651
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:21.035 1:20.229 1:19.966
4 4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:20.916 1:20.059 1:19.989
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:21.292 1:20.435 1:19.995
6 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:21.440 1:20.556 1:20.260
7 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:21.118 1:20.750 1:20.462
8 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:21.219 1:20.767 1:20.510
9 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 1:21.308 1:20.882 1:20.611
10 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:21.197 1:20.726 1:20.808
11 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:21.394 1:20.913
12 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:21.415 1:21.020
13 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:21.487 1:21.069
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:21.500 1:21.103
15 63 George Russell Williams 1:21.890 1:21.392
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:21.925
17 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:21.973
18 47 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:22.248
19 88 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo 1:22.530
20 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1:22.716

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