Valtteri Bottas will start the Italian Grand Prix sprint qualifying race from pole position after overhauling team mate Lewis Hamilton with his final lap of Friday qualifying.
Max Verstappen will line up behind the pair after a superb lap at the beginning of Q3.
Before qualifying drivers were advised to keep their speed up in between flying laps to avoid the hazard of delaying rivals on their flying laps. “Drivers must stay below the maximum time set by the FIA between the Safety Car lines,” they were instructed ahead of the commencement of Friday’s regular qualifying ahead of Saturday’s sprint race.
Despite that, several drivers had near-misses with slower cars. The stewards noted two incidents for later review, both involving Nikita Mazepin. One, a potential unsafe release from his garage involving Charles Leclerc, was dismissed, but the stewards chose to investigate an on-track incident between the Haas driver and Kubica.
The Ferrari driver had other problems. After he and Carlos Sainz Jnr were the first drivers to join the track when the session began, he reported a problem with his SF21.
“Is everything fine with the car?” he asked. “With engine braking especially.” After he was told to pit Leclerc asked again – “there is something, right, something felt wrong” – and was told an explanation would come back in the garage, away from the microphones.
The final flurry of laps originally seemed to bring disappointment for George Russell in his first qualifying session after being announced as a 2022 Mercedes driver. A late improvement by Fernando Alonso initially left the Williams driver in the drop zone.
However the stewards deleted Yuki Tsunoda’s final lap time for a track limits infringement, plunging the AlphaTauri driver into the bottom five and out, to Russell’s benefit. The Haas drivers dropped out as usual, but Mick Schumacher took advantage of Robert Kubica’s unfamiliarity with his car to put a car between him and his team mate.
Drivers eliminated in Q116 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1’21.925 17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1’21.973 18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1’22.248 19 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’22.530 20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1’22.716
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There was another, potentially more serious near-miss in the pits as the drivers emerged virtually at once for their final runs in Q2. The Aston Martin drivers drove into the fast lane as Lewis Hamilton was passing by, which got far too close for comfort for one team member who was standing between the cars. The stewards announced the incident would be investigated.
The Mercedes pair continued to set the pace, while Lando Norris moved up to third with his final run. Verstappen, whose first run wasn’t strong, moved up to fourth by the end of proceedings.
But team mate Sergio Perez, who helped Verstappen out with a tow, only made the cut by three-hundredths of a second. Vettel, the first to be eliminated, reckoned he was close to making it. “I’m sorry, I think I had a bit in turn six, maybe I took it a bit too easy for the traffic,” he told his team. “Not much, maybe a couple of hundredths.”
The Alpine pair dropped out as well along with Russell. However Antonio Giovinazzi impressed again, progressing into Q3 for the third time this season at his home race.
Drivers eliminated in Q211 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’20.913 12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’21.020 13 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’21.069 14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’21.103 15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1’21.392
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Verstappen produced a superb lap at the start of Q3 – aided again by his team mate – to shrink the gap to Hamilton. The Mercedes driver wasn’t able to recreate his Q2 pace immediately, and Verstappen lapped just 17 thousandths of a second off his time.
With Bottas losing out to the McLaren drivers, Mercedes went into the final runs in a weakened position. However Bottas produced a superb drive with his final lap, eking out almost a tenth of a second over Hamilton to grab pole position.
Verstappen could find no more time after his superb first run, and the gap between him and the Mercedes drivers opened up to almost four-tenths of a second. The McLaren drivers fell fractionally short of beating him – less than three-hundredths of a second covering the trio.
Pierre Gasly claimed sixth ahead of the Ferrari drivers. Charles Leclerc took eighth despite wrestling with his car problems throughout the session. Perez could only managed ninth ahead of Giovinazzi.
Top ten in Q31 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’19.555 2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’19.651 3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1’19.966 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’19.989 5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’19.995 6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1’20.260 7 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’20.462 8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’20.510 9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1’20.611 10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’20.808
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