Who gained the most positions – and Italian GP grid spots – in the F1 Sprint at Monza?
Monza played host to the second edition of F1 Sprint, with Valtteri Bottas coming out on top in the fast-paced 18-lap event. We look at who gained the most positions – and therefore grid spots for the race – ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix…
Fresh from the news that this would be his last Italian Grand Prix as a Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas hasn’t put a foot wrong on the hallowed asphalt of Monza this weekend, the Finn going fastest in qualifying and then controlling the F1 Sprint – including the Safety Car restart – with aplomb.
He was rewarded with three points – but he won’t start on pole, owing to a raft of engine component changes that will demote him to the back of the grid. That makes him the second driver to be quickest in qualifying at Monza but not start on pole – Kimi Raikkonen was the other in 2005.
Having never started in the top four at Monza, and knowing Mercedes has a strong package for Monza’s Temple of Speed, Max Verstappen wasn’t too hopeful of getting the upper hand this weekend.
But he benefitted from a slow-starting Lewis Hamilton to leap up into second, which he knew would become pole for Sunday’s Grand Prix owing to Bottas’ penalties. With Hamilton dropping to fifth, Verstappen’s two-point haul moved him five clear of the seven-time reigning world champion.
Frustrated. That best summed up Daniel Ricciardo’s mood on Friday night after he qualified fifth, just a fraction shy of third. But he put all that behind him on Saturday in the F1 Sprint, nailing a great getaway to run third by the chicane – and was fortunate to avoid a puncture when tapped by Pierre Gasly’s front wing.
With Bottas demoted, it promotes Ricciardo to second for his first front row start since the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix – and 10th of his career. It’s also only McLaren’s second front row since 2012. The Australian isn’t getting carried away, though, with his full focus now on converting it into a podium.
Lando Norris got a good start to challenge and pass Hamilton into the opening chicane, but by being on the inside, he missed out on the slipstream of everyone else on the other side of the track, and that allowed team mate Ricciardo get ahead.
Nonetheless, fourth on the road and third on the grid was a fine result, with the Briton doing an impressive job to hold off a faster Mercedes of Hamilton on fading tyres.
This wasn’t Lewis Hamilton’s finest day, the Briton making a bad getaway and losing three places that he was unable to recover. He tracked Norris for the entire Sprint but never got close enough to launch a meaningful attack.
Fifth will become fourth on Sunday with Bottas’ penalty, but having looked in good shape for victory, he was pessimistic about his chances on Sunday, saying to me in the pen that title rival Verstappen had already got victory sewn up.
Charles Leclerc started the day on the backfoot, cutting his final practice short because he felt unwell. But he showed no signs of discomfort in the afternoon as he gained a couple of places on his qualifying performance to leapfrog team mate Carlos Sainz.
That, though, was the maximum he could achieve, with Ferrari looking like fourth-best in the performance rankings at Monza, which means a tilt at a podium in front of the tifosi will likely be too much of an ask.
Carlos Sainz gave his Ferrari team plenty of work to do after he suffered a “weird” crash in second practice, but they did a stellar job to get him out in time for the Sprint.
The Spaniard admitted his confidence was dented, but said the Sprint helped build that faith in the car back up and while he ended up where he started, it gives him hope that he can make some progress on Sunday.
This was the second day in succession that Antonio Giovinazzi delivered an impressive all-round performance. Having made Q3 with relative ease, he nabbed a position from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez – and gained another when Pierre Gasly crashed.
His pace in a straight-line surprised Perez, who was unable to get back ahead, giving the Italian a very tidy starting position of seventh in front of his home crowd.
Perez will have hoped to have made progress in the F1 Sprint, but instead will have to make do with an extra spot on the grid courtesy of Gasly’s DNF.
He had to give a position back when he passed Lance Stroll by cutting a chicane, but got the job done a lap later to make up in some way for his poor getaway.
Aston Martin failed to repeat their FP1 pace in qualifying, with both Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel unable to make the top 10 shoot-out.
Stroll was outshone by Vettel on Friday, but made up for it on Saturday, gaining a couple of places to continue his run of always starting in the top-10 at Monza (in five visits).
Fernando Alonso is fast becoming “Mr Sprint”, the Spaniard going for the soft tyres for the second successive time in this new format – and making the advantage count.
He successfully made a pass stick on Vettel – and had a net gain of two places, which will become three because of Bottas’ penalty, meaning he’ll scrape into the top 10.
Vettel picked up a flat-spot early in the F1 Sprint – and that ended all hopes of him making progress from P11. That he only lost one place is arguably damage limitation.
That flat-spot restricted his learnings from an 18-lap stint on the softs but he is hopeful that Aston Martin's performance on the hard compound tyres will keep them in the mix for points.
Esteban Ocon didn’t quite make as much progress as team mate Alonso with his decision to also start on the soft, but a gain is a gain as he ended up one place higher than he started.
He reckons it’s going to be very close with the midfield, which means a clean strategy will be super important in the fight for the smaller points-paying positions.
This was about as good as it could have got, reckoned Nicholas Latifi, as he gained two places in Saturday’s F1 Sprint and finished ahead of team mate George Russell.
It’s going to be difficult for Williams to make progress on Sunday, given their car isn’t really suited to this circuit’s characteristics, but Latifi’s form is certainly on an upward trajectory, which bodes well.
Mercedes-bound George Russell was the first to acknowledge that he got the start procedure – which is different for F1 Sprint given they are starting on significantly lower fuel loads – wrong and that lost him ground at the getaway.
He then experienced an “extreme” front wing issue that gave him heaps of understeer and meant it was difficult to make any progress. He gained a place, courtesy of Gasly’s crash – and will get another spot on the grid following Bottas’ demotion.
Yuki Tsunoda cut a disappointed figure in the pen, the Japanese disappointed that having made a good start, he made contact with Robert Kubica at the second chicane, which damaged his front wing.
That forced a pit stop at the end of Lap 1. And while he was able to make some progress – gaining one place on where he started – he had hoped to have had a better afternoon given the pace of the car.
Nikita Mazepin was pretty happy with his efforts, and it’s no surprise given he made up three places – the best of any driver.
The Russian reckoned he got the maximum out of the Haas package, negotiating a hectic start and keeping his nose clean to end up two places ahead of team mate Mick Schumacher.
Robert Kubica was frustrated to have made up a couple of places on the opening part of the first lap, only to undo all that hard work when he made contact with Tsunoda and spun into the gravel.
He managed to get out of the gravel, which was as much a surprise to him as it was to onlookers, using what he described as some rally skills, and ultimately ended up one place higher than he started.
The pace was where Mick Schumacher was expecting it to be, he said, but he struggled more than his team mate with the tyres overheating – and that led to sliding around.
He fell back and didn’t have the pace to make any ground – but remained philosophical about improving his fortunes on Sunday.
The F1 Sprint format did not play into Gasly’s favour, the Frenchman making a very strong getaway, only to make a small error and give Ricciardo the smallest of taps.
That broke his front wing, which then became lodged underneath the car. From there he was a passenger as the AlphaTauri flew across the gravel. He escaped unscathed but last year’s Italian Grand Prix race winner has a lot to do if he is to rescue points.