What the teams said – Qualifying in Italy

Special Contributor

Becky Hart


Mercedes looked comfortably ahead of the field in the earlier practice session, so it was no surprise when they led the way throughout qualifying. When news of Bottas’ grid penalty drifted through, it became clear that the Finn would be going out first to give his team mate an advantageous tow. But on their final flying runs, Bottas himself picked up a tow from Gasly ahead and nailed his lap to grab P1 on the grid, beating his team mate by a tenth as Hamilton just had no answer to the pace of the Finn.

READ MORE: Hamilton praises departing team mate Bottas after conceding Monza qualifying to Finn

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:19.651

"First, I want to congratulate Valtteri, that was really a mega lap and he was just quicker. I couldn't match it at the end so very well deserved. Especially with the news that went out earlier this week, it's great to see Valtteri driving so well. From my end, I struggled a bit in that last session for whatever reason, so not the best qualifying for me. But in general, it was close between us all out there and I'm happy to have a front row lockout for the team.

"We have to get off to a good start tomorrow and try and maximise the opportunities. There has been many lost points this year so every point really counts and we need to try and capitalise during these sprint race weekends. The format is exciting and it's amazing to see the Italian fans back. I hope we can give them a good show."

Valtteri Bottas, 1st, 1:19.555

"Pole position feels great and I really had fun and enjoyed it out there. It was beautiful lap, which I managed to save for the end. I felt relaxed in the car and I am happy with our work as a team. The car has felt good all day, with our performance little stronger than we perhaps expected, especially when you look at the gap to Red Bull. Hopefully it will be similar on the race pace for us.

"I know I'll be starting from the back on Sunday with the PU change but the focus is on tomorrow and trying to extract as many points as possible. We know Sunday will be a fight, but our pace is good and I'm sure we can finish strong then too. But our eyes are set on tomorrow and hopefully we have another good day."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"Well done to Valtteri, a great lap and a well deserved pole position... even if the rule book says that comes tomorrow. It is always a busy day when you only have one hour in free practice to get the car ready and setup for qualifying but we had a productive session in the morning and the car seemed to be working well. We looked to have good pace through the sessions and that's helped us save some tyres so we have all options open to us for the race starts tomorrow and on Sunday. Unfortunately, we noticed an issue with Valtteri's power unit towards the end of the morning session and we didn't have endless time to investigate so we decided to take a new power unit whilst there was still time to change it. The crew did a great job making sure the car was back together for qualifying. That's going to mean Valtteri starts from the back on Sunday but it's great that we've got both cars on the front row for tomorrow."

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Sparks and gravel fly behind Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull

Red Bull looked off the pace of both Mercedes and McLaren in practice, but managed to make enough changes between sessions to be more competitive come qualifying. All that was left was for Perez to sacrifice his runs and tow his team mate, with the resulting time lost nearly costing the Mexican his place in Q3. Once again, he selflessly punched a hole in the air for the Dutchman on the last runs, who managed to jump up the order as a result. Verstappen is well placed to capitalise on a tow down to the first corner tomorrow from P3 on the grid.

READ MORE: Verstappen says it would be ‘unrealistic’ to have hoped for more than P3 in Monza qualifying

Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:19.966

“It wasn’t the best qualifying session but I think for us this track is always going to be difficult. We struggled a little bit more than we wanted to in FP1, but I think we recovered quite well throughout qualifying. I’m happy with third and it would have been unrealistic to hope for more. I think for the Sprint maybe we can be closer but you never know around here, so of course we will try and keep the pressure on. We’ve got FP2 tomorrow morning so we can see what we can do to help the long run pace a bit more but for us it will be more difficult around here with the long straights, nevertheless I hope we can score good points tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez, 9th, 1:20.611

“We definitely struggled in qualifying today. Tomorrow our aim in the Sprint is to try to gain some positions and come through the field strong, I think this will be difficult with the DRS train though. Our long runs looked promising today and a lot of things can happen during a race so we’ll see what happens, I’m looking forward to it. We will try to optimise our performance for a strong race on Sunday.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“That’s a good team result, Checo has played a key role today. He did a great job giving Max the tow and allowing him the benefit of a hole in the air, it probably cost Checo half-a-second, and he should have been higher than where he is. So we are pretty happy with where we have finished.

"The Sprint tomorrow is going to be exciting and then of course we’ll see what happens in the race on Sunday. Max is on the right side of the grid tomorrow and will hopefully pick up a tow into Turn 1, so it’s going to make it a really exciting start, for what is effectively qualifying. The announcement has come out that Bottas has taken the engine penalty, so we know he’ll be at the back of the grid on Sunday, and we just have to see how the Sprint pans out. When a championship is so tight, and the gains are so marginal it’s about grabbing every point that you can, we’ve had a couple of good weeks in this triple header so far, so it’s important that we close off this stage with the momentum that we have built.”

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


With the sessions shuffled around, McLaren couldn’t keep their powder dry on Friday like they so often do. Instead, it was clear to see they had pace to burn from word go, with Norris looking like a potential front row contender. In the end, they were both pipped by a recovering Verstappen, as Norris just got the better of his team mate. But with Ricciardo towing the youngster, the Aussie deserves credit for being just 0.006s behind.

READ MORE: Norris eyes Sprint fight with Verstappen after taking P4 in qualifying at Monza

Daniel Ricciardo, 5th, 1:19.995

“From a general standpoint, I’m happy. We were fast and were fighting for top three on the grid, so I’m happy we had the potential to do that. But I’m so frustrated that we got that close but not quite close enough. It was more of a tease than anything, but it’s all good.

“I think the team performance was great. We didn’t put ourselves in a difficult situation with any of the out-laps and I was in the right places in terms of track position, we had good tows. My only frustration is that it’s so close and, unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the milliseconds. It is what it is and I’m now looking forward to the racing.”

Lando Norris, 4th, 1:19.989

"I'm satisfied with today – we’re back in a much better position after last weekend, and we seem much more competitive. I think it’s the perfect start to the weekend. There was a possibility of being P3 if I'd put the lap completely together – but one small mistake, I think, cost us. It's a bit of a shame that I missed out on it, but fourth still puts us in a very good position compared to the people we’re really racing against and battling with this weekend and for the Championship. I'm happy – and it's a good way to bounce back after last week."

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“One aspect of the Sprint Qualifying format is that it allows us to see where we are much earlier in the weekend. Today, we found out that we’re competitive at this track, and expect it to be better for our car than Zandvoort was. We had a difficult event last weekend, so it’s encouraging that we could bounce back immediately and put ourselves in a good position to score well here at Monza. There’s a lot to do before that, with Sprint Qualifying tomorrow following a final practice session. We need to keep working hard, keep thinking and optimise all of the variables still within our control to ensure we can maximise our opportunity.”

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes over a kerb during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Gasly picked up where he left off in Zandvoort, with another brilliant performance. Drawing on all the memories of winning here last year, he managed another top six grid slot, his 12th this season from just 14 races. As for Tsunoda, he looked to have made Q2 only to lose his last flying lap to track limits after the chequered flag fell. He’ll have a tough weekend from towards the back.

READ MORE: Gasly proud of AlphaTauri after navigating ‘cat and mouse’ quali to take P6 for F1 Sprint

Pierre Gasly, 6th, 1:20.260

“I’m very pleased with today, I think I gave everything out there and it was a very good lap to put us in P6. We really maximised our potential, especially in Q3, where I was able to put it all together. It was tricky, but we know it’s always a game of cat and mouse here, as everyone is fighting for a tow. It was very important to get a clean lap and we managed to do that today so I’m really happy. Another P6 for us, I think that’s the 11th time I’ve qualified in the top six this year and it shows that the team are doing such a good job. Tomorrow is going to be 18 intense laps, trying to keep up with the guys in front, and make sure we start Sunday’s race in a strong position.”

Yuki Tsunoda, 17th, 1:21.973

“I’m obviously disappointed with today, but it is what it is. Track limits are the same for everyone, so it’s just a shame I made that mistake. I think tomorrow’s Sprint is going to be difficult as it’ll be a DRS train, so it’ll be hard to overtake, but I’ll try my best to make my way forward. I think getting a good start off the line will be really important and the best chance to overtake tomorrow.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“This was our second Sprint weekend of the season and we’ve used a lot of the learnings from Silverstone, where we didn’t fully maximise the format, to plan for this event. This helped us going into FP1, where we worked on understanding the cooling preparation of the car for the race. Our focus was also on qualifying optimisation, including some aero comparisons, which gave us some good information to analyse ahead of the session.

"Yuki was making very good progress today and continuing his good form in quali. We used three sets of tyres in Q1, to try and guarantee him making it into Q2. Unfortunately, track limits in the last corner meant that he didn’t make it through today, which is of course disappointing. On the other side of the garage, we had a fantastic qualifying from Pierre. He was fast in every single session and never made a mistake. He was quick enough to make it through Q1 with just one set of tyres, which allowed him to use two sets in Q3, really making the difference when it counted. P6 is great from Pierre today, we absolutely maximised our package and he is in a strong position going into tomorrow’s Sprint.”

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Yuki Tsunoda of Scuderia AlphaTauri and Japan during practice/qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


Leclerc started complaining about engine braking issues right from word go in qualifying, and despite some frantic work on his car between segments, still scraped into Q3. Once there he couldn’t quite match his team mate, with very little to choose between the two. But top 10 berths for both cars is a huge improvement on where the Scuderia qualified last year, and bodes well for the Sprint tomorrow.

READ MORE: Sainz hails Ferrari progress after double Q3 at Monza, as Leclerc frustrated by power unit issue

Charles Leclerc, 8th, 1:20.510

"Qualifying was really tough for me today. We had an issue throughout the sessions with the electronic management of the engine braking. The situation was especially tricky in Q1, but for Q3 it had slightly improved and it should be fine for tomorrow.

"All things considered, eighth is a good result. We will try to gain some positions in the Sprint to secure a good starting position for Sunday’s race."

Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:20.462

"I think today we showed we have made good progress since last year and we did a good job with both cars in Q3. We obviously want to be further up the order and even more so in front of the Tifosi, but I think today we extracted the maximum out of the car.

"Q1 was quite tricky because of traffic and unfortunately we quickly understood we were a bit too far away from the top five. Despite that, we kept improving throughout the session and managed to put together a good lap in the end for P7. Overall it was a solid session. It’s a decent starting position for tomorrow and we will fight to gain positions in the Sprint and on Sunday."

Laurent Mekies, Racing Director

"That was a very busy qualifying session, as is usually the case at Monza. It was made even more intense for us because of a problem with the electronic management of the engine braking on Charles’s car right from his very first run in Q1. We tried to find the cause and gradually the situation improved, but Charles definitely didn’t have an easy time of managing the afternoon!

"Having said that, this result, with both drivers on the fourth row of the grid for the Sprint tomorrow afternoon, is in line with what we expected going into this weekend. We should not forget where we were in terms of outright performance at this track last year and, even with the limited opportunities for development this season, we have seen signs of progress. It’s still not enough for a team like ours, but here too we have been able to verify that we are working in the right direction. The weekend format doubles the opportunities for getting a good starting position for the race and that’s what we will try and do tomorrow afternoon."

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari walks in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Giovinazzi was another to carry his Zandvoort form into Monza, the Italian looking racy in both practice and qualifying. He made Q3 with ease, opting to run just the once when he got there. P10 is a solid result and bodes well for the weekend, while Kubica opted to play it slightly safer and finds himself towards the rear of the field.

READ MORE: Giovinazzi says he achieved 'something great' by making Q3 in front of tifosi

Robert Kubica, 19th, 1:22.530

“It wasn’t the smoothest of days but tomorrow we can try and make up some ground. Practice wasn’t bad, but when you have only one hour to try three compounds and do long and shorter runs, it’s not easy to get a reference. I am a bit disappointed about the qualifying result as I believe we could have been a bit higher up the grid. Finding space on track wasn’t the easiest, and when I did, my first run was ruined by Mazepin, who was just in the middle of the track. At first I thought he had a technical issue, but then he sped away. It’s a bit of a shame, as in a short session you have to make every lap count, but that’s how it is.”

Antonio Giovinazzi, 10th, 1:20.808

“I am very happy to have achieved Q3 in front of the Tifosi, it’s unbelievable. We looked solid from the start, even in Q1 and Q2 we did good laps for sixth and seventh and we knew we could get a good result. We only had one fresh set of tyres for Q3, so we couldn’t make much progress there, but we’ll take P10. Even if this position is only for the grid of the Sprint, it’s a good result and it allows us to start from a great position. We will need a good start tomorrow, on a race with no stops and no strategy, but we know we want to set us up well for Sunday. There will be some very aggressive drivers out there and we’ll need to make our opportunities count.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

“We had a good Friday here in Monza, which is especially good for the supporters in the grandstands for our home race. The team looked solid from the beginning of the weekend, which was ideal with only one session to find a good balance for the car. Every lap counts and we could begin qualifying with confidence. Antonio looked strong straight from Q1 – he was P6 in Q1 and P7 in Q2 and looked at ease. Unfortunately, Robert didn’t have as smooth a session: his first run was ruined when he got blocked during his first lap, and he could only be 19th. Still, he can improve tomorrow as he looked good in practice. In Q3, Antonio only had one set of tyres left and was able to replicate his Q2 lap to go 10th. Being in Q3 for the second race in a row is a very encouraging result and gives us a good position ahead of tomorrow’s Sprint.”

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Robert Kubica of Poland driving the (88) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Not to be for Aston Martin, despite showing some early promise in practice. They couldn’t respond once their rivals’ engine modes were turned up and saw both cars eliminated at the end of Q2. Vettel just pipped his team mate but unfortunately won’t have the advantage of being the first car with free tyre choice for the Sprint, with the whole field getting to choose their starting compounds.

READ MORE: Alpine and Aston Martin fined €5,000 each after pit lane melee in Monza qualifying

Sebastian Vettel, 11th, 1:20.913

“It was very busy on track with everybody trying to find a tow and in the end we just missed out on making Q3 by three hundredths. I was happy with my lap in Q2: it was a good lap, but it could have been a little cleaner in the middle sector. It is a shame to miss Q3 by a small margin, but I still believe we can make up ground tomorrow to be in a stronger position for Sunday when it matters most.”

Lance Stroll, 12th, 1:21.020

“It is a pity to have narrowly missed out on Q3. It was a solid effort by the team and we were able to get in some good laps despite the challenges Monza always throws up in qualifying. Traffic was an issue for everyone and it was difficult to find good tows. While it is disappointing not to have made Q3, tomorrow’s Sprint should give us the opportunities to gain places and start Sunday’s race inside the top 10.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

“Both our drivers did a very good job in qualifying today, finishing 11th and 12th. Sebastian reported no real problems with the car other than a bit of understeer at Parabolica, and Lance had issues with traffic and was unlucky not to be able to get a tow at the opportune moment. Both he and Seb are well set to secure good finishes in tomorrow’s Sprint.”

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)


Like Aston Martin, Alpine looked good in practice only to fall by the wayside early on in Q2. Neither car was able to progress, but at least Alonso can draw on the experience of Silverstone when he was one of the big movers during the Sprint. With the Spaniard claiming he is more up to speed on race day than over one lap, this format may well suit him again here.

Esteban Ocon, 14th, 1:21.103

“I’m a bit disappointed in our result in qualifying as I feel there was a little more left out there for us. It was very close out there again with our rivals and also close between Fernando and I – less than half a tenth – which does show we’re pushing the car to the maximum. We’ve been on a good run of races reaching Q3, so it’s disappointing for that to end. However, this weekend’s format is different to usual and we have tomorrow’s Sprint and Sunday’s race to make a comeback. We have positions to make up, but I’m aiming to be on the front foot tomorrow, make some overtakes and put ourselves in a better position for Sunday’s race.”

Fernando Alonso, 13th, 1:21.069

“We didn’t have many laps today with the shorter format, but we couldn’t find the pace in the end. We got through to Q2 but then my first run in that session wasn’t ideal as I locked up the front tyres going into Turn 1. This meant I only had one push lap. Q3 might have been possible today with a few tenths to gain. It’s the Sprint tomorrow, though, so let’s see what we can do then. It will be more difficult to overtake than it was at Silverstone, and the first few corners will be tight, but we have to remember the points are scored on Sunday.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“Today’s result wasn’t what we were targeting or expecting with Fernando 13th and Esteban 14th on the grid for tomorrow’s Sprint. As always, we always aim for better and Q3 is our target. On one side, we managed the session quite well and it was unfortunate that Fernando only had one run in Q2 after locking up at Turn 1 on his first push lap. Esteban was building nicely but just short of making the top 10. Overall, though, it wasn’t enough today. Fortunately, we have an opportunity in the Sprint tomorrow to make up some positions and put ourselves in a more competitive place for Sunday’s main race. We’re looking forward to racing tomorrow and seeing what we can do.”

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine A521 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)


Williams looked off the pace in practice, and couldn’t find much more speed in qualifying. It looked like a double Q1 exit for the pair until a late reprieve for Russell, who made Q2 by default after Tsunoda’s lap time was deleted. But once there, the Williams man couldn’t make an impact and came home in P15.

George Russell, 15th, 1:21.392

"It has been a really tricky day, and we aren’t quite as competitive here as we would have hoped. Since we hit the ground with FP1 we weren’t in the right window with the car and that really compromises you on a weekend like this. We did a really good job executing qualifying though and the team got me in the right position on track, but today just wasn’t meant to be. I think we are in a better position for the Sprint tomorrow than we were today, but generally I think it’s going to be a tough weekend. However, we need to build momentum and see what we can achieve."

Nicholas Latifi, 16th, 1:21.925

"The car wasn’t feeling great in FP1, and only having one practice session makes things tricky but I think we did manage to make some good changes ahead of qualifying and car did feel much better. Ultimately, as we saw last year, this isn’t a track that really suits our car and we could have done some things better in the qualifying session. It’s frustrating to miss out on Q2 when the margins were so small. We did make some compromises to our pace today which will hopefully put us in a better in a better position tomorrow, and this is a track that you can overtake at, so we’ll see what we can do in the Sprint."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"Today has been hectic with the short free practice session leading straight into qualifying. We struggled a bit in FP1, which is often the case in Monza when the drivers are getting used to the low drag setup. George in particular was unhappy with the car at low fuel. Nicholas was a little more comfortable and showed some decent pace on high fuel.

"We made some changes to the cars ahead of qualifying, especially on George’s side of the garage, which improved the balance. However, it was still a difficult session with both cars fighting hard to get out of Q1. With a tow useful on the long straights here in Monza, there were the usual standoffs in the pit lane and jostling on the outlaps; we mostly stayed out of trouble, but Nicholas unfortunately couldn’t orchestrate a tow for his final all-important lap in Q1. He finished just behind George who made it into Q2 when Tsunoda’s lap was deleted.

"It has been a difficult day, but there are two more competitive sessions to go this weekend and we will look to make progress tomorrow afternoon ahead of the Grand Prix on Sunday."

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)


Mazepin nearly found himself in hot water through no fault of his own as he was released into the path of the Ferrari pair in the pit lane, with the stewards deciding to take no further action. He was then summoned for possibly impeding Kubica’s Alfa in Q1, having failed to keep inside the maximum lap time but was let off, with traffic the deciding factor in that incident. As for Schumacher, he lost one run in Q1 to track limits but made up for it on his next go.

Mick Schumacher, 18th, 1:22.248

“It was getting kind of tight at the end of qualifying. It was good to have a good lap and be in front of one Alfa Romeo – that’s an achievement for us. We’re happy with what we achieved today. Looking forward to tomorrow, hopefully we have made the right changes in our car to be able to fight. What we learnt from Silverstone is that the Sprint is a bit different to the race in terms of degradation, so we’ll probably have to attack and go in with a different mindset compared to the main race.”

Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:22.716

“One more interesting, hectic qualifying session out there. I was happy to get a clean lap at the end, in terms of being able to start, as we were going very slow on the straight next to the last corner. I went off unfortunately on my fastest lap which cost me quite some time. We have two races ahead this weekend, the pace is looking very promising, so I’m excited.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“A pretty good day for us. As much as you can say it was uneventful, it was a good uneventful. We had a good test in FP1 with both cars, no issues at all, and then in qualifying we outqualified one of the Alfa Romeo’s – a good success. Nikita got very near to that as well. All in all, tomorrow we start P18 and P20 and we look forward to the Sprint. Hopefully we can move up a little bit so we have better starting positions on Sunday.”

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MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 10: Nikita Mazepin of Russia and Haas F1 walks in the Pitlane during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)


Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"As we've seen before at Monza, qualifying was a very strategic session, with cars trying to benefit from a valuable tow on the long straights in order to improve their overall lap times. The overall strategy was made more complex by the fact that the teams also had to consider sprint qualifying for the first time at Monza, as they are free to run whichever tyre they like tomorrow – as well as start the grand prix on whichever compound they like. We saw different strategic approaches in FP1, with the majority of teams using three sets of tyres and all the compounds in just one hour to maximise data collection, while Mercedes, for example, focused only on the medium tyre: which might be a good option for tomorrow's sprint qualifying. Today's qualifying was instead more straightforward than usual as the teams could only run the soft tyre. This coped well with the heavy traction and braking demands of Monza, also providing the mechanical grip needed in the absence of high levels of downforce."



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