Championship leader Max Verstappen will start tomorrow's sprint race in P3, behind both Mercedes drivers. The Red Bull driver had ended this morning's practice session in second place, but struggled more in the qualifying session.
Verstappen is satisfied with his result, as he told Sky F1, which was obtained on a track unsuited for this year's RB16B:
"Of course it wasn’t the best, but we also know that this track isn’t our best track. Just because of the long straights, of course you try to trim it with the downforce."
"Third is good, I was actually quite happy when I heard that I was in third, because in FP1 we were struggling a bit with balance, but I think we recovered quite well. It would have been unrealistic to hope for more, so I think for us third was good."
The Dutchman also added that, in his opinion, he won't be able to fight for the sprint qualifying win that would allow him to start the race on Sunday from pole position, as the Mercedes is more suited to Monza's high-speed track:
"Maybe a bit closer, but I don’t think we can challenge them. But you never know what happens in a race, so we just try to keep the pressure on.
An unexpected assist could come from the title rivals, since Speed King Valtteri Bottas will start the race from the pit lane after taking a new power unit, in spite of qualifying first in today's session.
Verstappen said on the topic: "Let’s see, still before that race a lot of things can happen. So we need to get through that clean, it’s not like Zandvoort, there we were really quick, here we just need to maximise everything.”
"We definitely struggled in qualifying today. Tomorrow our aim in the sprint race is to try to gain some positions and come through the field strong, I think this will be difficult with the aero train though."
While nothing much can be done to work on the aereodynamics of the car, there's still room for improvement, especially in the longer runs:
"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.”