RACE DEBRIEF

    Championship leader Max Verstappen faces a five-place grid penalty for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix. But the Red Bull driver said he was unfazed by that, and backed himself to challenge for victory on Sunday at Monza.

    Verstappen qualified second to Charles Leclerc, who took pole by 0.145s and will not drop down the order – unlike the nine drivers, including Verstappen, who have grid penalties to their names this weekend. The Dutchman might not have aced qualifying, but said he is looking forward to battling for what would be his fifth-straight victory.

    READ MORE: Leclerc takes pole position for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix with Russell to join him on front row

    “With what I’ve seen from the long runs, it looks good from our side; I just need to have a clean Lap 1, clear the cars in between us quite quickly, and I think we still have a good chance here,” said the Red Bull driver.

    “I think the lap [in Q3] was pretty decent. Just the first sector, we seemed to be a little bit slow, and probably [lacking] a bit of straight-line speed, a bit of the first chicane, not finding the right grip. But I think overall, the rest of the lap felt pretty strong.”

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    Leclerc starts on pole and looks to add to his 2019 Italian Grand Prix triumph

    The reigning champion explained that Red Bull had chosen a slightly higher downforce package than those of their rivals, which could help the RB18s find some pace on Sunday.

    “We chose of course the downforce levels – a bit higher compared to some other cars, but it felt alright and of course around here, qualifying to race can always feel a bit different, and my race runs, they felt really good, so very happy with that pace. I’m actually really looking forward to the race tomorrow.

    “[Higher downforce] should normally be better for tyre deg, and hopefully we can show that tomorrow.”

    READ MORE: Binotto responds to Ferrari chairman's comments that he expects Scuderia title ‘before 2026’

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    Perez has a 10-place grid drop, Verstappen a five-place drop, for Sunday's race at Monza

    Team mate Sergio Perez has a 10-place grid penalty that will drop him down the order after qualifying P4. The Mexican said that Red Bull were not surprised by Ferrari’s pace, but hoped – like Verstappen – that race pace could help them overhaul the Scuderia on Sunday.

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    “Yes, we knew certainly they [Ferrari] were going to be very fast around here, and yes, it’s not much of a surprise. I think in the race they will also be strong, so they will be hard to beat – especially where we’re going to be starting,” said Perez.

    “But I think in the race it’s a lot closer and hopefully we are able to have a good management of our strategy and be in the mix tomorrow.”

    Verstappen has never taken a podium at Monza, while Perez’s last top-three finish here came with Sauber in 2012. On Sunday, Red Bull drivers will be hoping to make it to the rostrum while pushing their team towards the titles.