Valtteri Bottas won the sprint qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix but will not be on pole for Sunday’s race because he has a grid penalty. Instead, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was second, will start from the front of the grid. Lewis Hamilton however could manage only fifth after a poor start to the 18-lap event. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were in third and fourth, the Australian’s best qualifying this season.
It leaves Verstappen in a very strong position to extend his championship lead, and with the two points from this race he now has a five point advantage over Hamilton. Bottas will start at the back of the grid having taken a full new power unit this weekend, beyond the team’s allocation. Each driver will move one place up the grid on their finishing positions, meaning Hamilton will start in fourth behind the two McLarens.
The win is nonetheless a fillip for Bottas after Mercedes announced he is to be replaced at the team next season by Williams’s George Russell. Bottas is to drive for Alfa Romeo next year where he will have little chance of securing a win or securing pole.
Bottas and Verstappen got away well but Hamilton had a shocking start and was swamped off the line. He had dropped to fifth by the time they went through Curva Grande, where Pierre Gasly, who had damage to his front wing, went off at high speed.
The safety car was deployed, with Hamilton having places to make up behind Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Norris. Racing resumed on lap three but Hamilton struggled to close on the McLaren’s, who are very strong in a straight line. Even with DRS the Mercedes did not enjoy enough of a pace advantage to overhaul them.
Hamilton was pushing hard, almost losing the rear on the exit of the first Lesmo corner, but could not make a dent in Norris’s advantage with the young McLaren driver putting in a fine performance to withstand the pressure from the world champion.
Bottas and Verstappen were alone out front, the pair evenly matched on pace and running just over one second apart. As it had been at Silverstone, the race was once more a straightforward, processional affair. Without significant points on offer or a strategic element there was no sense of jeopardy and the format once more lacked even the urgency of a half-decent qualifying session.
Bottas held his lead to win by 2.3 seconds back from Verstappen but the order of the top seven remained as it had after the first lap.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were in sixth and seventh for Ferrari, Antonio Giovinazzi in eighth for Alfa Romeo, Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez in ninth and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in 10th.