Sprint Qualy: Bottas takes the three points, Max on pole

Date published: September 11 2021 - Michelle Foster

Valtteri Bottas smiling camera. Italy September 2021

Valtteri Bottas clinched the victory in the Sprint Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, taking the three points and pole position – but one he’ll be handing over to Max Verstappen.

Bottas beat Verstappen to the chequered flag in the 18-lap this-is-not a race with Daniel Ricciardo finishing third.

The Mercedes driver, though, won’t be starting P1 with Mercedes having put him onto his fourth engine of the season earlier in the weekend.

Despite taking pole position, he’ll start P20 because of that penalty with Verstappen handed P1 for Sunday’s race. Ricciardo will join him on the front row of the grid.

Mercedes’ plan to use team orders in Lewis Hamilton’s favour came to naught as the Brit was shuffled down the order at the start, falling behind both McLarens. He finished P5.

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Despite Carlos Sainz’s heavy FP2 crash, the Spaniard lined up on the grid in his P7 qualifying slot with his mechanics having rebuilt his car, with his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc alongside him, the Monégasque driver having earlier visited the medical centre complaining of illness.

The 18-lap sprint qualifying saw the drivers all have a free tyre choice, everyone going for the mediums except the Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda. Points would be going to the top three, that – at least on the grid – was Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Bottas made a flying start with Verstappen following him up as Hamilton had to move across the track to block the fast-starting Norris, the World Champion shuffled down the order to P5, behind both McLarens

It didn’t take long for the Safety Car to make an appearance, Pierre Gasly clipping a McLaren and breaking his front wing. With that under his car he went flying off at Curva Grande, the 2010 Italian GP winner’s sprint qualifying over. Just before the SC came out, Tsunoda clipped Robert Kubica, pitching the Alfa Romeo into a spin.

The Safety Car pitted at the end of lap 3, Bottas staying P1 ahead of Verstappen and the McLarens, Hamilton holding on for fifth place ahead of the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Hamilton got within DRS range of Norris on lap 7 but the McLaren driver held firm, quick enough to stay ahead – Norris’ soft tyres versus Hamilton’s mediums, the McLaren driver unflappable.

Behind them Sergio Perez overtook Lance Stroll for ninth, but off the track on lap 11. Despite that he stayed ahead of the Aston Martin until Red Bull told him to give the position back. He passed Stroll on the next lap, this time staying on the track into the chicane.

Lap after lap Bottas ran about two seconds ahead of Verstappen, the Finn unable to help Hamilton and Verstappen having no genuine need to fight the Mercedes driver for the lead.

Bottas took the victory in the 18-lap sprint qualifying, scoring three points, with Verstappen P2 and bagging two points. Ricciardo was third, earning him a single point while Norris, well Norris earned Verstappen’s thanks as he kept Hamilton behind him throughout the 18 laps.

Leclerc was sixth ahead of Sainz and Giovinazzi with Perez holding onto his P9 despite the stewards questioning whether he had taken too long in giving Stroll the position back earlier in the race. The Aston Martin was P10.

Result

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 2.325s
3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 14.534s
4 Lando Norris McLaren 18.835s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 19.978s
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 23.203s
7 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 27.919s
8 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 31.089s
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 31.680s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 38.671s
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine 39.795s
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 41.177s
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 43.373s
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams 45.977s
15 George Russell Williams 46.821s
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 49.977s 1
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas 62.287s
18 Mick Schumacher Haas 65.380s
19 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo Racing 64.279s

Did not finish

Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri crash lap 1