RACE DEBRIEF

    Hamilton predicts ‘easy win’ for Verstappen in Italian GP after falling down order in Monza Sprint start

    Lewis Hamilton will start from P4 for the Italian Grand Prix, having endured a nightmare start to the Monza Sprint, while title rival Max Verstappen is set to start on pole position for Sunday’s race – with Hamilton predicting “a big hit” for him in the title race this weekend, and a correspondingly “easy win” for Verstappen.

    Starting the second ever F1 Sprint from P2 on the grid, one place back from team mate Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton had a poor getaway, with the seven-time champion down to P6 by the time the field had filed through the first chicane – Hamilton having been passed by Verstappen, the two McLarens of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.

    READ MORE: Verstappen set for pole position for Italian Grand Prix as penalty-hit Bottas wins Monza Sprint

    He was up to fifth as Gasly crashed at the Curva Grande on Lap 1, but thereafter couldn’t find a way past the McLaren of Norris, as he finished P5. Bottas won the Sprint from Verstappen, but will start from the back of the grid in Sunday’s race after a raft of power unit changes, moving Verstappen to pole, and Hamilton to P4.

    Explaining his start, a disconsolate Hamilton told the press: “I just went too deep on the clutch, got too much wheelspin.

    Lewis Hamilton reacts to poor F1 Sprint start as he predicts 'an easy win for Max now tomorrow' at the Italian GP

    “Then trying to overtake the McLarens was just impossible for me, unfortunately,” added Hamilton. “It’s going to be tough tomorrow.”

    Asked if he’d been surprised by the speed of the soft tyre-shod McLarens – with Norris never seriously coming under threat from Hamilton on the mediums, while Ricciardo will book himself his first front row start since the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix once Bottas’ penalty is applied – Hamilton replied: “I think we were probably surprised that the soft tyre was as fast as it was.

    WATCH: Dramatic start to the F1 Sprint at Monza as Gasly crashes out on Lap 1

    “But anyway, that’s an easy win for Max now tomorrow, so it’s going to be a big hit… [but] I’ll do the best I can.”

    Verstappen’s two points from the F1 Sprint, meanwhile, saw him stretch his lead over Hamilton to five points in the drivers’ standings.