Bottas set to start Italian GP from back of the grid

Mark Scott
Rear-view shot of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas at Italian GP. September 2021.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, seen from behind while in action at the Italian Grand Prix. September 2021.

Valtteri Bottas is set to start Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from the back of the grid after Mercedes opted for a strategic engine change.

Mercedes were weighing up whether or not to introduce a fourth engine for the 2021 campaign with nine rounds of the season remaining.

Deciding not to do so would save on an engine penalty, but increased the risk of a potentially even more costly engine failure using an old power unit.

And for Bottas, Mercedes have decided that the Italian Grand Prix at Monza is the right time for a new power unit, providing him with his fourth new engine of the 2021 campaign.

That being said, the decision was ultimately made due to a “little bit of a worry” for the team.

“We had a little bit of a worry, because we wouldn’t have taken it otherwise,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky F1.

“With the sprint race format it is quite good as we only have to take the penalty for Sunday.”

This means though that the Finn will drop to the back of the grid for Sunday’s race, a tricky situation for Mercedes to deal with potentially in their fight with Red Bull over the Constructors’ Championship.

Bottas will though lead the pack away for sprint qualifying at Monza, having snatched P1 from team-mate Lewis Hamilton on his final flying lap of Q3.

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Speaking to Sky F1’s Paul di Resta after qualifying, Bottas branded that lap “very satisfying”.

“It felt nice, you know what it feels like when you manage to make a good qualifying lap,” he added.

“And especially in Q3, so nice to put it all together and it is really satisfying.”

Asked if it was always his plan to try to get a tow on his second Q3 flying lap, Bottas replied: “I made it very clear, if we want to get a front-row lockout, we all will need a tow.

“And luckily we found one in the end.”

While Bottas will of course drop to the back for the race, in sprint qualifying for Saturday there are three points up for grabs for the winner, with P2 set to score two and P3 a single point.

And so, Bottas has set his sights on creating a gap out front and storming his way to an extra three points, though he acknowledged the need to play the team game.

“I think we need to get the maximum points as a team or course, that’s important,” he said.

“But let’s see how it goes, we need to really go by situation, and my aim of course personally is to get a good start and build a gap, that is the goal for me.”