Bottas set for Grand Prix grid drop
By Mat Coch
Saturday 11th September, 2021 - 4:30am
A power unit change for Valtteri Bottas will see the Mercedes driver start Sunday’s Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix from the back of the grid.
However, he’ll start tonight’s Sprint Qualifying from first after recording the fastest time in qualifying on Friday.
The Sprint Qualifying format in use this weekend sees any penalties applied to the grid for the Grand Prix, Bottas’ penalties therefore not kicking in until Sunday’s race.
It leaves him free to start Sprint Qualifying from ‘pole’, increasing his chances of scoring points on Saturday.
The top three finishers in the 30-minute competitive session, which is officially not considered a race, are awarded points; three for the first to the flag, two for second, and one for third.
“I think Sprint [Qualifying], obviously there’s a possibility to get a few points so of course [I’ll] try to get the maximum points tomorrow,” Bottas said.
“Then it’s another fight on Sunday.
“Having a look at the pace we have here, I’m sure we can still get some strong points on Sunday.”
The decision to take a new power unit this weekend was a tactical one from Mercedes, as Monza also affords the opportunity to race through the field given overtaking is somewhat simpler at the Italian venue.
Had it opted to take the penalty in Sochi next time out, Bottas would have started from the rear of the grid without any chance of scoring points on Saturday owing to the Sprint Qualifying format not being used.
Instead, the Finn will now also enjoy the benefit of a fresher power unit on a power-sensitive track, while adding the new unit into his pool for the remainder of the season.
Bottas sits third in the drivers’ championship, 102 points down on title leader Verstappen, while Mercedes heads the constructors’ competition by 12 points over Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton will join his team-mate on the front row for Sprint Qualifying, with Verstappen third and the second Red Bull driven by Sergio Perez ninth.
Sprint Qualifying gets underway at 00:30 AEST Sunday morning.