Bottas takes Monza pole but PU change means Verstappen to start at front

Less than a week after the announcement that Valtteri Bottas would no longer be a Mercedes driver in 2022, the Finn took a Sprint Race pole ahead of Max Verstappen for the Italian Grand Prix.

A Power Unit change, however, means that Bottas will start from the back of the grid for Sunday’s race whilst Verstappen will start alongside Daniel Ricciardo on the front row.

“It feels good,” said Bottas afterward. “It feels like a long time since I’ve finished first in a race. Unfortunately I am starting from the back tomorrow but the speed is there so I will be fighting to come as high as I can tomorrow but today, I enjoyed. It was a very clean race and we had good pace.”

For Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton it was a very different story, the world champion starting on the front row but too much wheelspin off the line allowed not only rival Verstappen past but also the McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris.

It means the Englishman will have his work cut out to narrow the gap at the top on race day, Verstappen also netting two extra points for his spring race second place.

“First of all it’s amazing to be here and to see all the Italian fans again they are passionate about motorsport in general so great to see you,” said Verstappen. “Of course we had the race and it went better than expected. We had a good start and got up to second so scored some nice little points and of course starting on pole for tomorrow.

“Nevertheless they still seem very quick, but I was giving it all to try to stay close so it’s going to be an interesting battle tomorrow.”

2021 Italian Grand Prix, Friday – LAT Images

The race was certainly not without incident, Pierre Gasly losing his front wing in an early contact before skating off the circuit at high speed at the Curva Grande. He emerged unscathed but it allowed the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to take advantage, the pair lining up 6th and 7th on the grid ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi and Sergio Perez as Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.