George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has raised Lewis Hamilton concerns ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, despite the Dutchman inheriting pole position from the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas after sprint qualifying in Monza, with the seven-time world champion starting in fourth.
Hamilton had a disastrous start off the line, starting second on the grid behind his team-mate Bottas which left the door open for Verstappen and the McLaren’s to sweep past the seven-time world champion heading into turn one.
Despite a win for Bottas, due to engine penalties, the Finn will start from the back of the grid, with Verstappen inheriting pole position for Sunday’s main event.
“I mean, first of all, it’s amazing you know to be here to see all the Italian fans again,” began Verstappen.
“You know they’re incredibly passionate about motorsport in general so great to see you.
“And, of course, you know the race, a little bit better than expected – I mean, we’re a good start so we got up to second and we have we scored some nice little points and of course starting on pole for tomorrow.
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“Nevertheless, I mean they [Mercedes] still seem very quick but I was giving it all you know to try and stay close so it’s gonna be an interesting battle tomorrow.
McLaren finished ahead of Hamilton, being promoted to second and third on the grid ahead of Sunday’s race, splitting the two title protagonists.
However, Verstappen felt Red Bull had put themselves in a strong position.
“I have to say we did trim our car, you know, to have decent top speeds, so I’m not too worried about our top speed in the race, added Verstappen.
“Of course we also know that Mercedes they have a very good pace also you know, over the whole lap. But nevertheless, you know, We’re gonna try and have a good race tomorrow.
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Bottas meanwhile, who is set to be replaced next season at Mercedes by George Russell, managed a lights to flag victory to finish ahead of the pack in Monza.
However, due to engine penalties will start from the back of the grid.
“I feel good, feels like it’s been a while but I finished first in the race and unfortunately you know I’m starting from there from the back tomorrow but the speed is there so I’ll be fighting,” stated Bottas.
“I’ll be coming us as high as I can tomorrow but yeah, today, I enjoy, it was a very clean race and we had good pace.
“It’s not gonna be easy, that’s for sure, you know when there’s a train of cars with DRS it’s not easy but obviously strategy-wise, still a free choice of tyre, so let’s see if we can do something.
“But I’ll give it all I have, I can promise that.”
Daniel Ricciardo will line up second on the grid, with his team-mate Lando Norris in third.
Hamilton meanwhile will have a lonely battle, not helped by his team-mate, who starts at the back of the grid.
Verstappen now leads the way in the driver standings by five points thanks to his second place finish in the sprint qualifying session.
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