Motor racing-Boom! Bottas fastest with ‘mega lap’ for Monza sprint

FAN Editor
Formula One F1 - Italian Grand Prix
Formula One F1 – Italian Grand Prix – Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza, Italy – September 10, 2021 Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas celebrates pole position for the sprint qualifying Pool via REUTERS/Lars Baron

September 10, 2021

By Alan Baldwin

(Reuters) -Valtteri Bottas put in a ‘mega lap’ to beat Mercedes Formula One team mate Lewis Hamilton and qualify fastest on Friday for Saturday’s experimental Italian Grand Prix sprint race.

The Finn, whose departure from the team at the end of the season was announced this week, did a one minute 19.555 second lap with seven times world champion Hamilton 0.096 slower.

“Oh yes. Boom! Thanks,” Bottas said over the team radio after the lap catapulted him from fifth to first at the fastest circuit on the calendar.

He will start from the back of the grid on Sunday after a strategic power unit change triggered a penalty for exceeding the allocation of three for the season, but can still score on Saturday.

Three points go to the sprint winner, who will take pole position for Sunday’s main event. Two go to the second-placed driver and one for the third with any grid penalties not applied until afterwards.

“That qualifying lap was nice,” said Bottas, who will be moving to Alfa Romeo to replace retiring compatriot Kimi Raikkonen.

“It feels so good when you get a nice lap. I managed to save it to the end and had a bit of a (aerodynamic) tow as well so it was good fun. I enjoyed it.

“I feel good, I feel relaxed and everything is sorted for the future. Really pleased with the team today, the car has been so good,” he added.

Hamilton is three points behind Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen, who qualified third, after 13 races and is set to cut the gap to the Dutchman in Saturday’s 100km dash.

“Congratulations to Valtteri, he did a mega lap,” said Hamilton. “It was looking good for us until the end but then he went quicker, and I just couldn’t match it.”

SPRINT FORMAT

The hour-long qualifying at the ‘Temple of Speed’ outside Milan replaced Friday’s usual second practice, with the sprint format being trialled for the second time after a debut at Silverstone in July.

Verstappen was 0.411 slower than Bottas, after being 0.452 off Hamilton in the one practice session, and Mercedes seem to have the edge again at a circuit where they have won five times in the last seven years.

“I think for us around this track it’s always going to be difficult,” said Verstappen. “We struggled a little more than we wanted in the free practice but I think we recovered quite well throughout this qualifying.

“I’m still happy to be third here and for the race hopefully we can be a bit closer.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo will line up fourth and fifth with AlphaTauri’s 2020 winner Pierre Gasly sixth and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc seventh and eighth.

Red Bull’s Mexican Sergio Perez qualified ninth, but gave Verstappen a vital aerodynamic tow to his own cost. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, whose place for 2022 looks uncertain, completed the top 10.

The session saw cars backing each other up on track and in the pitlane, and there was almost an incident when Hamilton and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel were released and almost collided.

Aston Martin and Alpine mechanics were fortunate not to have been hit in the confusion.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)

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