Italian Grand Prix – Bottas puts in flawless Sprint drive

September 11, 2021

Verstappen extends championship lead to five points as Hamilton finishes P5.

Valtteri Bottas ended Formula One’s second Sprint with mixed feelings as he won the race holding off Max Verstappen in second place who was followed by a very speedy Daniel Ricciardo in his McLaren.

Also Read – F1: What is Sprint Qualifying and why is it implemented?

Bottas’ joy, though, will be short-lived as the Finn will start the race from the back of the grid given his engine penalties and that will put championship leader Max Verstappen on pole. To make matters worse for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton will start only P5 as the reigning world champion had a nightmare of a race that saw him lose three positions in the opening lap.

Hamilton finishing P5 means the Brit leaves the Sprint without any points as his championship rival takes two to extend the lead in the Drivers’ standings to five.

Bottas had a brilliant start off the line as he breezed away from the pack, but his teammate had a horrible start that saw Verstappen sail past the Mercedes and both the McLarens of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris to capitalise on the Brit’s poor start.

Ricciardo almost took P2 from Verstappen as the Australian brought out some of the vintage moves, but Verstappen managed to hold on to stay second.

To make things worse, Hamilton was almost passed by AlphaTauri‘s Pierre Gasly, but the Frenchman’s contact with the McLaren saw him lose his front wing and go off at Curva Grande, smashing into the barriers.

Gasly’s crash and Alfa Romeo‘s Robert Kubica spinning after minor contact with Gasly’s teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, brought out the Safety Car as the damaged AlphaTauri car needed to be removed from the track.

As the Safety Car pulled in on Lap 3, Bottas wasted no time and zoomed away into the distance, and within a lap after the Safety Car going in, Bottas had already built up a lead of almost 1.5 seconds on Verstappen.

Hamilton, whose terrible start saw him fall down the grid, was engaged in an intense fight with Lando Norris as he threw everything at his young compatriot in an effort to go past him, but the 21-year-old Norris held his own, holding off the seven-time world champion even as the latter had DRS.

Further down the grid, old foes Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were engaged in a scrap for 11th position, with everyone trying to make up any spot they could. Alonso squeezed out Vettel and left the Aston Martin driver in an Alpine sandwich. The German, though, held off the other Alpine comfortably.

Also involved in a scrap were the impressive Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez, who struggled to pass the Italian as Giovinazzi put in a brilliant defensive drive to hold off the Red Bull.

Pérez also had a moment with Lance Stroll on Lap 9, trying to pass the Aston Martin at Turn 1, but he completed the move off the track and was asked to give back the spot to Stroll.

As the Sprint came to the final few laps, Bottas had a comfortable gap between himself and Verstappen, but the Dutchman knew the Finn would start from the back and didn’t take any risks, building up a 12-second gap to Ricciardo in third place instead.

A little further back, Norris made sure Hamilton didn’t get by as the McLaren driver put his car in all the right areas to defend immaculately to hold off Hamilton. The home team of Ferrari saw their duo finish P6 and P7 as Antonio Giovinazzi, Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll rounded off the top 10.

With the second Sprint coming to an end, it’s Hamilton missing out once again as he did in Silverstone and this time he starts P4, with his championship rival starting from pole. What makes Verstappen’s pole start even better is that he doesn’t have another Mercedes on the front row with him, but it is his old teammate Daniel Ricciardo in P2, with the other McLaren of Lando Norris in P3.

It’s definitely advantage Verstappen going into Sunday, but Bottas’ flawless drive has shown that on pure pace, Mercedes are tough to catch, and if Hamilton can get a good start on Sunday, he will fancy his chances.

Mercedes will also try different strategies once again as Bottas will need to charge through the field, and given that the other Red Bull of Sergio Pérez isn’t beside or near Hamilton to pressure him, it’ll give the Brackley team one less thing to worry about.

McLaren have shown they have the pace to challenge for the fight as well and Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris will hold nothing back as they are sure to attack Verstappen off the line.


The Starting Grid

Max Verstappen
Daniel Ricciardo
Lando Norris
Lewis Hamilton
Charles Leclerc
Carlos Sainz
Antonio Giovinazzi
Sergio Pérez
Lance Stroll
Fernando Alonso
Sebastian Vettel
Esteban Ocon
Nicholas Latifi
George Russell
Yuki Tsunoda
Nikita Mazepin
Robert Kubica
Mick Schumacher
Pierre Gasly
Valtteri Bottas

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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