Valtteri Bottas converted his pole position into an easy victory in the second-ever Sprint Qualifying, with Max Verstappen extending his lead in the driver’s championship to five points after finishing second and will start on pole position for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix.
The Finn, who recently announced that he would be leaving the team after five years of service, looked untouchable out in front, leading every lap of the race. However, Bottas will start last for tomorrow’s race after taking a grid penalty for a new power unit, handing Verstappen a vital pole position alongside McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
As temperatures hit a scorching 29 degrees before the start of the race, the second-ever Sprint Qualifying would be critical for the title race with the two championship protagonists separated by three points and one position on the grid.
Bottas, who was fresh from securing for his future for 2022, was on pole position for Sprint Qualifying ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen, with Norris leading the McLaren charge in fourth ahead of Ricciardo.
Pierre Gasly would start sixth ahead of the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, with Sergio Perez a disappointing ninth on the grid alongside Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
Polesitter Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen, Gasly, Sainz, Leclerc, Perez and Giovinazzi would start on the medium compound of tyre whilst Norris, Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel would start on the softs.
Bottas got a perfect getaway at the greenlight, but Hamilton made a poor getaway and fell to fifth place as Ricciardo charged into second ahead of Verstappen and Norris as the field poured through the Rettifilo.
Gasly’s race was ruined after clipping the rear of Ricciardo shortly after the start, with the Frenchman’s front wing going underneath the Alpha Tauri and causing the 2020 Italian Grand Prix winner to become a passenger slamming into the barrier at Curva Grande, bringing out the safety car to retrieve the wrecked Alpha Tauri.
Alpha Tauri’s day was further compromised after Yuki Tsunoda, and Robert Kubica touched at the Roggia, sending Kubica into a spin and damaging Tsunoda’s front wing, dropping both to the back of the pack.
The safety car pulled in on Lap 4 with Bottas leading Verstappen and Ricciardo over the line with the Finn building up a lead of over eight tenths after backing the pack up until the last minute at Parabolica.
Fernando Alonso began his charge through the order after getting past Vettel for 11th into the second Lesmo, as Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon tried to follow suit and pass the German for 12th.
George Russell’s poor start gave him plenty of work to do, with the newly confirmed Mercedes driver having to wait until Lap 6 to get past Nikita Mazepin for 15th spot.
At half distance, Bottas led Verstappen by over two seconds whilst Ricciardo was a further four seconds back in third ahead of Norris who was keeping Hamilton at bay despite the reigning champion’s best efforts.
Perez tried to make his way through the order by passing Lance Stroll, yet the Mexican mistimed his breaking point and went over the kerbs at the Lesmo, gaining an advantage before being told to give the place back on the run down to Ascari.
One lap later, Perez got the job done into Lesmo, going around the outside of his former Racing Point teammate into ninth.
Despite Norris’s getting warned for track limits breaches, Hamilton struggled to get past the McLaren, with Norris gaining on time the Mercedes into the Curva Grande as Hamilton nearly sild into the gravel trap at the first Lesmo trying to catch the Brit.
With Verstappen saving his car for tomorrow’s race, Bottas took an easy victory ahead of Verstappen as he extended his lead in the championship from three points to five points ahead of Ricciardo and Norris.
Hamilton could only manage fifth ahead of Leclerc and Sainz, with Giovinazzi, Perez and Stroll rounding off the top 10.
Alonso would start 11th alongside Vettel and Ocon, with Nicholas Latifi an excellent 14th to start ahead of teammate Russell whilst Tsunoda, Mazepin, Kubica, and Mick Schumacher were the last of the classified finishers.