Bottas takes surprising pole position in Mexico

Valtteri Bottes will start on pole position as Mercedes upstaged rival Red Bull by taking the front tow for the Mexican Grand Prix. Championship contenders Lewis Hamilton is in P2 with Max Verstappen in P3 followed by home crowd favourite Sergio Perez in P4.

Checo Perez is fourth in front of his home supporters, with the Red Bull duo having their final laps ruined when coming across Yuki Tsunoda off the track in the runoff at Turn 10.

But Red Bull, which had dominated in FP3, was already under pressure as Bottas had grabbed provisional pole on the first run in Q3 with a one minute, 15.875 seconds, with Hamilton slotting in 0.145 seconds behind.

Perez led Verstappen around for the final Q3 fliers – just as he had earlier in the segment, where Verstappen posted a time 0.350 seconds slower than Bottas’s time as the championship leader struggled with loose rear end.

Both Red Bulls posted personal bests in the opening sector on their final laps, but Tsunoda’s off-track moment at the fast Turn 10 right appeared to distract Perez, who went off as well, with Verstappen then coming across the pair and backing off expecting a yellow flag.

He then locked up during the stadium section and did not improve his best time while behind neither Mercedes driver improved, which sealed Valtteri’s nineteenth Formula 1 pole.

Red Bull had come into qualifying – where all the top ten runners traversed Q2 on the mediums bar Tsunoda, which means they will start on that rubber for Sunday’s race – hurriedly working on the rear wings of the RB16Bs, which had picked up small cracks in final practice at Austin and had to be repaired ahead of qualifying there.

Red Bull confirmed that the wings were not cracked this time around, but Verstappen’s car was spotting tape next to the endplate throughout qualifying, with Max saying in his immediate post-qualifying interview that the wings had had to be repaired.

Behind the leaders, Pierre Gasly took fifth, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo, with Charles Leclerc eighth.

Tsunoda took ninth ahead of Norris – with the McLaren and AlphaTauri teams using their drivers that will take grid penalties for taking new engines this weekend to tow their teammates down the main straight at the start of the fliers in Q3.

In Q2, a personal best with his final flier just ahead of the chequered flag coming out was not enough to get Sebastian Vettel through and he was knocked out in P11 ahead of former teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

George Russell took P13 for Williams but will drop five places on the grid as a result of his post-FP2 gearbox change, although that will be ahead of all the drivers that have grid penalties for taking new engines.

They are Tsunoda, Norris, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon.

The last two drivers knocked out in Q2 were Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi, who spun off at the Turn 12 90-degree right at the entry to the stadium section on his final flying lap – the Alfa Romeo sliding off sideways at high-speed and knocking into the barriers deep in the runoff square-on.

Giovinazzi was able to drive away from the incident and returned to the pits, ending up P14 ahead of Alpine’s Ocon.

The opening segment was disrupted nearly halfway through – but before most of the field had posted times – by Lance Stroll crashing at the exit of the Peraltada.

The Aston driver was ending his opening Q1 lap when he accelerated out of the famous long right-hander that ends the lap in Mexico, but going slightly too wide put him on a dusty line and his car snapped out of control.

Stroll spun off backwards into the barriers on the outside at the start of the pit straight, which destroyed his rear wing and then the left-front wheel area as the Aston spun around and its front was knocked about as well.

The session was suspended for nearly half an hour as the wreckage was cleared and the barriers replaced, after which Fernando Alonso was the highest profile Q1 casualty as he was knocked out in P16 – the Alpine driver finishing his final lap just before the chequered flag fell, which meat he was shuffled down as others, including Russell, went quicker as the track conditions continued to improve.

The other Q1 fallers were Nicholas Latifi, the Haas pair and the absent Stroll – who went to the medical centre to be checked over after his 12G impact, where it was revealed “his vital signs and x-rays are normal”, per an Aston statement.

Mick Schumacher led Nikita Mazepin in P18 and P19, the latter having a tetchy exchange with his team about running behind his teammate and the Williams cars ahead of the final Q1 fliers.

Latifi and Russell will be investigated now qualifying has ended for lining up alongside the Haas cars at the pit exit at the end of the red flag period, and then setting off alongside their rivals when the session resumed.

Raikkonen also now has a trip to the stewards to explain why he crossed and the recrossed the pit entry – he had already passed the bollard at the start of the entrance line – just after Stroll’s crash.

The Iceman ended up doing an extra lap during the red flag period as a result of not coming in just as the red flag was activated.

So congratulations to Mercedes with this front row with Valtteri Bottas taking pole position. Sunday’s race is going to be fascinating.

Mexican Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.875
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.020
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:16.225
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:16.342
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:16.456
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:16.761
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.763
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.837
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:17.746
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:17.958
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:18.290
12 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:18.452
13 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:18.756
14 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:18.858
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:18.172
16 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:19.303
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:20.873
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:17.158
19 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.830
20 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:18.405

Verstappen holds off title rival Hamilton to take US Grand Prix victory

Max Verstappen resisted the pressure from a charging Lewis Hamilton to take victory at the Circuit of the Americas, as the teams went different on race strategy after Hamilton took the lead on the opening lap.

Red Bull had to use an undercut pit strategy to get Verstappen back in front, which meant Mercedes later left Hamilton out longer to set up an attempt at sealing a last-gasp victory.

At the start, Verstappen and Hamilton got away from the starting grid together but the Mercedes accelerated much better and the pair were almost immediately side by side as the began to climb the hill to the Turn 1 left-hand hairpin.

Verstappen squeezed Hamilton over the pitlane exit line to the inside edge of the track, but the defending world champion had the line and was able to steal ahead at the Turn 1 apex.

The Red Bull Racing driver hung over around the outside line but was shown to the edge of the track in turn by Hamilton, who raced clear into the lead as Perez surged alongside Verstappen, who had to rejoin from off the track.

Perez conceded ground his teammate into the Turn 3 left that starts the Esses complex in the first sector as the pack charged after the leaders, only Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi adrift at the back after making contact at Turn 1 with the Aston Martin driver spun around in front of the Williams.

The top three immediately pulled clear of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari in fourth, the trio able to run in the high one minute, 41 seconds while the rest were at least a second slower in the early tours of the 56-lap race.

Hamilton and Verstappen also edged clear of Perez, with the leader holding a lead of just under a second throughout the opening ten laps, during which Verstappen insisted to Red Bull that he had pace in hand and that Hamilton was “sliding a lot”.

Hamilton confirmed to Mercedes that his rival was indeed quicker, but, as the pair pulled further clear of Perez who was dropped back to the one minute, 42 seconds, he continued to hold the advantage.

On lap 10, Verstappen told Red Bull he suddenly found himself sliding more and not going as fast as he had been before and at the end of the tour, he was brought in to switch the mediums all the leaders had started on for hards.

Verstappen carved his way by the yet-to-stop Daniel Ricciardo, running behind Leclerc, on his out lap, with Mercedes opting not to bring Hamilton in immediately to cover his rival.

With Verstappen lighting up the timing screens with a string of fastest laps, the Dutchman urged Red Bull to use Perez’s strategy aggressively with a second undercut to stop Mercedes leaving him out for a long first stint.

When Red Bull did just that by pitting Perez for a second set of mediums at the end of lap 12, Hamilton was indeed called in at the end of the following tour, with Verstappen moving back into the lead easily when the Mercedes re-joined.

Verstappen therefore found himself with a six second lead that he maintained over the next phase of the race – the leaders now running in the high one minute, 40 seconds – with Perez ten seconds behind in third.

Just past the 20-lap mark, Hamilton began to turn the screw as he upped his pace to reach the low one minute, 40 seconds, which quickly ate into Verstappen’s advantage.

The Red Bull’s lead was soon under three seconds as Hamilton’s three-lap tyre life off-set advantage began to pay off, as Verstappen even slipped back to the 1m41s as he made his way through backmarker traffic.

But Verstappen was able to respond, gaining back a chunk just before the virtual safety car was briefly activated so a piece of debris could be retrieved by a marshal at the entry to Turn 16, the multi-corner complex leading to the track’s final corners.

Red Bull then went aggressive again with Verstappen’s strategy, calling him in for a second set of hards at the end of lap 29, with Mercedes immediately telling Hamilton he would be running long in response – Perez now far from a threat behind.

Hamilton was left out for an extra eight laps after Verstappen came in for a second time, with Mercedes setting up a significant second tyre life advantage for the end of the race.

When Hamilton exited the pits at the start of lap 38, he had an 8.7 seconds gap to close over 18 laps and during the early phase of that chase he made small gains on his rival, but then upped his pace to reach the one minute, 38 seconds as Verstappen struggled to lap traffic, with the gap rapidly coming down to 4.8 seconds at the end of lap 42.

Once the pair had both cleared the traffic, with Hamilton seemingly held up less, Verstappen’s lead continued to fall, albeit back to a steadier rate, with his team telling him to make sure he had enough tyre life left to defend against Hamilton coming into DRS zones late in the race.

At the lap 50 point, Verstappen’s lead was under two seconds for the first time, but Hamilton’s gains were getting smaller again as he arrived at the Red Bull’s wake.

The gap stabilised for a brief time before Hamilton closed further in with three laps to go – Verstappen’s lead barely a second and with Mick Schumacher’s Haas suddenly a factor as he came to be lapped for a second time.

But although Hamilton was just 0.8 seconds behind at the start of the final tour, Verstappen had DRS down the pit straight as he had been with the detection zone following the Haas at the end of the penultimate lap.

That helped Verstappen pull clear just enough to never let Hamilton had a DRS activation or make a move in battle, with the Red Bull coming him to win by 1.3 seconds.

Perez finished 42.2 seconds behind Verstappen, with Leclerc only ten seconds adrift of the second Red Bull by the finish.

Fifth position went to Ricciardo after he clashed with the Carlos Sainz late in the race – the pair and Lando Norris also engaging in a thrilling fight on the first lap, while Sainz dropped behind Valtteri Bottas late on.

Norris took eighth behind his former teammate, with Yuki Tsunoda, who defied Bottas for several laps mid-way through the race with a series of bold defensive moves, taking ninth.

Sebastian Vettel rose from his rear-of-the-field start, thanks to his pre-event engine change, and the Aston driver claimed the final point after his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen spun out of tenth place with a dramatic spin at the long and bumpy Turn 6 right with three laps to the end.

Alpine retired both cars – Esteban Ocon with an unspecified problem at the rear of his car, and later Fernando Alonso after his rear wing “broke up”.

Pierre Gasly was the first retirement when his AlphaTauri’s rear suspension was damaged on lap 12.

So a tense and exciting race at the United States Grand Prix with Max Verstappen resisting the pressure from rival Lewis Hamilton to take victory. The championship fight has been epic and will continue as there is five races to go. Mexico is next.

United States Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:34:36.552
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.333
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda +42.223
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +52.246s
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +76.854s
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +80.128s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +83.545s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +84.395s
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
14 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
15 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
– Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault DNF
– Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

Verstappen scores pole position at COTA

Championship leader Max Verstappen beat his Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the 2021 United States Grand Prix, with Sergio Perez taking a solid third place after leading the way early in Q3.

Despite a small amount of light drizzle arriving as the final runs in the top ten shootout were unfolding, Verstappen and Hamilton were able to gain time on Perez and lock out the front row.

All the shootout runners, bar Carlos Sainz and Yuki Tsunoda, traversed Q2 on the medium compound and will start Sunday’s Grand Prix on the more durable rubber at the Austin track, where the final segment of qualifying did not feature any track limits controversy, after Verstappen and Hamilton had lost times that would have led FP3.

Perez was the pacesetter in final practice and he somewhat beat Verstappen to lead the way for Red Bull after the first runs in Q3 on a one minute, 33.180 seconds, Checo keeping his soft tyres alive best of the leading runners to set the fastest time of Q3 in the final sector.

But he was shuffled back on the second runs as Verstappen was able to gain enough with the fastest Q3 time in sector one – where light rain was falling in the final sector – and then hold on through the lap to set a one minute, 32.910 seconds.

Hamilton’s personal best – where he set the fastest time in the middle sector – was a one minute, 33.119 seconds, which put him 0.209 seconds as Mercedes missed pole at the Circuit of the Americas for the first time since 2014.

Perez ended up 0.224 seconds adrift of his teammate, but he did beat Valtteri Bottas to third, the Finn not improving on his final Q3 lap.

Charles Leclerc led Sainz as Ferrari locked out the third row of the grid in fifth and sixth, with their McLaren rivals Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris taking seventh and eighth.

Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda made it three teams side by side on Sunday’s grid, as they took ninth and tenth.

In Q2, a back straight tow from teammate Fernando Alonso, who ended up out in P14 with a best time in the middle segment 11 seconds off the pace set by Verstappen as the double world champion did not set a competitive time as he will drop to the rear of the field for the race start for taking a new engine this weekend, was not enough to get Esteban Ocon’s Alpine into Q3.

Ocon was knocked out in P11, 0.24 seconds shy of a slot in the shootout.

Sebastian Vettel will lead the three drivers dropping to the back as a result of engine-change grid penalties – the other being George Russell – as he did post a competitive Q2 time, which was only good enough for P12.

Then came Antonio Giovinazzi, with Russell losing the time that would have taken 13th for a track limits violation at Turn 9, and so he ended Q2 without a time set in 15th.

In Q1, Lance Stroll was knocked out Alonso’s late improvement, with the Aston Martin driver one of the first runners to take the chequered flag in the opening segment and missing out by 0.063 seconds.

Nicholas Latifi was also shuffled down the order and eliminated in P16 for Williams, despite setting a personal best on his final lap.

Kimi Raikkonen was one of a number of drivers to have their opening efforts deleted for running too wide through the penultimate corner and his later effort of one minute, 36.311 seconds was only good enough for P18 in front of the Haas drivers.

Mick Schumacher beat Nikita Mazepin at the rear of the field, with the latter incurring Vettel’s wrath mid-way through Q1 when the Aston came upon the Haas going slowly through the Esses in the middle sector.

The stewards noted the incident but decided it did not warrant an investigation.

So an exciting qualifying session with the speed of the Red Bulls very impressive. Congratulations to Max Verstappen in achieving his ninth pole in Formula 1 and what a brilliant team effort with Serio Perez taking third. Title rival Lewis Hamilton missed out on pole but will start on the front row. The race is going to be thrilling.

Qualifying positions, United States Grand Prix:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:32.910
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.119
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:33.134
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:33.606
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:33.792
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.808
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.887
8 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:34.118
9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.475
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:34.918
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:35.377
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:35.794
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:35.983
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:35.995
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:36.311
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:36.499
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:36.796
18 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:35.500
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes –
20 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:44.549

Bottas victorious at Turkey

Finally a race victory for Valtteri Bottas, as the Mercedes driver dominated the Turkish Grand Prix by finishing ahead of Max Verstappen in damp conditions. His teammate Lewis Hamilton recovered to fifth position but ended the race angry with the strategy calls.

Sergio Perez took P3 giving the Honda-powered Red Bull a double podium. Charles Leclerc and Hamilton finished a close behind after their attempts to complete the race on a single set of inters did not pay off.

At the start, where all cars were fitted with intermediate tyres, the top three scrambled off the line in the order they had arrived, with Bottas comfortably leading Verstappen into Turn 1.

Leclerc made the best start of the trio but stayed third after getting close to Verstappen’s outside before falling back as they reached the left-hander.

Despite the tricky conditions, the only lap one incidents were Pierre Gasly tapping Fernando Alonso around as the Alpine tried to sweep around the outside of the first corner, which spun him down to the rear of the field – where he was involved in a clash that led to Mick Schumacher spinning at Turn 4 on lap two – and Nicolas Latifi spinning by himself at Turn 9.

Bottas led by 1.3 seconds at the end of the first lap of 58 and it did not grow much beyond that over the next phase of the race – despite Verstappen searching for wet patches to cool his inter and complaining about a dashboard error message he was spotting each time he changed gear.

By lap 10, Valtteri’s lead had reached 2.4 seconds – having grown suddenly on the previous two tours – at which point Hamilton had reached seventh after nipping by Sebastian Vettel at the final corners on lap one and then scything past Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll in successive tours on laps eight and nine, after Tsunoda had held him at bay in the early stages.

Hamilton then nipped ahead of Lando Norris to take sixth at Turn 9, as Bottas continued to extend his lead over Verstappen – the two Mercedes cars at this stage the only cars lapping in the one minute, 33 seconds bracket and Leclerc falling back from Verstappen by several seconds.

But as the race approached the 20-lap mark, with Hamilton up to fifth having easily passed Gasly ahead of the Turn 12 stop at the end of the back straight on lap 14, Verstappen raised his pace and began to close in again on Bottas as the focus became about how the inters were holding up.

Bottas also upped his speed as the leaders moved to the low 1m33s, the Finn initially holding his gap at just over three seconds until he lost half a second sliding wide out of the first corner on lap 20.

But from there Verstappen could not close in much, with all the leaders moving to find wetter patches as their inters wore down – Hamilton in fifth initially tearing into Sergio Perez’s advantage ahead before the Mexican driver’s pace improved and he stayed clear in fourth, albeit well behind Leclerc, who continued to keep the leading duo in sight.

McLaren pitted Daniel Ricciardo for fresh inters from the rear of the field, but the Australian did not go any faster and was indeed slower than the leaders, who began to consider if a one-stop strategy would be feasible as the half-way point approached.

Here, Bottas began to pull away from Verstappen again – his lead rising to four seconds at lap 30 – while Hamilton, who at one point had to back out of lapping Nikita Mazepin when coming close to the Haas at the Turn 11 kink in the middle of the back straight, finally reached Perez’s rear, the pair nearly twenty seconds off the lead.

They engaged in a thrilling fight at the end of lap 34 and into lap 35, Hamilton attacking to the Red Bull’s outside at Turn 12 and staying alongside all the way to the final corner, Perez at one stage cutting behind the pitlane entry bollard after the Mercedes forced him wide at the penultimate corner.

The battle continued to Turn 1, where Perez boldly hung on to the inside line and stayed in fourth place, with the battle then superseded by the leaders pitting.

Red Bull pulled the trigger by pitting Verstappen for fresh inters on lap 36, with Bottas following him in the next time around and easily keeping the lead, while Perez came in on the same back and rejoined behind Hamilton.

The world champion, and Leclerc up ahead, stayed out – Hamilton arguing against a Mercedes call to pit on lap 42.

Bottas, over seven seconds clear of Verstappen, who reported a steering wheel “left-hand down” issue as the final quarter approached, initially steadily closed on Leclerc on his fresh inters.

He then gained large chunks of time as the final laps approached and retook the lead with a major grip advantage on the wet line down the inside into Turn 1 on lap 47, at the end of which Leclerc finally pitted.

From there, Bottas easily ran clear of Verstappen to claim a first win of 2021 by 14.5 seconds – setting the fastest lap at one minute, 30.432 seconds on the final lap – while Perez took third after closing in on Leclerc on lap 51.

Ferrari had hoped Leclerc could close back up the leading two on his fresh inters, but he hit the bad graining phase all the drivers were finding a few laps after pitting, which meant Perez could easily take the place with a run to the outside of Turn 12.

The lap before Perez passed Leclerc, Hamilton had finally come in, Mercedes feeling it had no choice but to abandon the no-stop strategy because of Gasly’s presence in sixth – already on a second set of inters.

Hamilton initially got close to Leclerc on his new inters, but then fell back dramatically as he reached the graining phase, to which he angrily criticised Mercedes’ decision to pit him in a series of radio messages.

He was able to hold off Gasly to the flag, the AlphaTauri driver having served a five-second penalty at his stop for the lap one Turn 1 clash with Alonso, who did likewise for his lap two shunt with Schumacher.

Norris took seventh not far from Gasly’s rear, with Carlos Sainz eighth after rising rapidly up the order from the back row of the grid with a series of bold early passes – the Spaniard then also having to recover from a slow pitstop.

In that recovery, Sainz passed Lance Stroll, who finished ninth, and Esteban Ocon, who was the only driver to complete the race on a single set of tyres.

Remarkably given the conditions, all the cars finished – Ricciardo’s early stop meaning he finished behind the Alfa Romeo pair in P13 and Alonso coming home P16.

The only driver to attempt a switch to slicks was Sebastian Vettel, who tried the mediums with 22 laps to run, but he came back in after just a single tour, where he was very slow and twice went off the track, to go back to the inters.

Vettel ended up P18 – only ahead of the Haas duo, where Schumacher got back ahead of Mazepin after recovering from his Turn 2 spin as a result of the contact from Alonso.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning his first race this season. A commanding performance in the Mercedes. As for Max Verstappen, finishing in second is fantastic for the championship and he retakes the points lead from Lewis Hamilton, who was left feeling frustrated with the pitstop.

Turkish Grand Prix, race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31:04.103
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 14.584
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 33.471
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 37.814
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 41.812
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 44.292
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 47.213
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 51.526
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:22.018
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
16 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +1 lap
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
18 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps

Hamilton is fastest but takes grid penalty. Bottas on pole for Turkish Grand Prix

Championship points leader Lewis Hamilton ended up quickest in qualifying but due to a power unit change, teammate Valtteri Bottas will instead start on pole position with Max Verstappen joining the Mercedes driver on the front tow.

In a session that was overcast throughout, with spots of rain falling in Q1, the drivers were able to run slick tyres for the duration, with all the top ten runners except for Yuki Tsunoda getting through Q2 on the more durable medium compound, which they will all start Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton had come into the session knowing he would drop ten positions from wherever he qualified, with Bottas leading the way for Mercedes after the first Q3 runs had been completed on a one minute, 23.071 seconds, with Hamilton second 0.022 seconds adrift.

Hamilton then took an unorthodox approach to the rest of the final part of qualifying, leaving his garage on a new set of softs with over five minutes of Q3 remaining.

He found time on his second flying lap to move ahead of Bottas on a one minute, 22.868 seconds, with the session’s best times in the second and third sectors.

Hamilton then back off ahead of completing a third Q3 flier, before which Bottas and Verstappen had their second goes and sole attempts to depose the world champion at the head of the times.

Bottas was 0.005 seconds ahead of Hamilton by the end of the second sector, but he lost time in the final third and wound up 0.13 seconds adrift.

Verstappen went through the second sector 0.134 seconds down on Hamilton and he too lost time in the final corners and finished 0.328 seconds down on the best time.

That remained Hamilton’s second Q3 flier, as although his third attempt started with the fastest time in the final sector he lost time through the rest of the lap, at the end of which he was already confirmed at the top of the times.

Charles Leclerc’s final Q3 lap bumped him up to fourth, knocking Pierre Gasly down one spot as the AlphaTauri driver was left to rue time lost in the final sector on his final Q3 lap.

Fernando Alonso took sixth ahead of Sergio Perez and Lando Norris, with Lance Stroll, who made it through to the shootout despite a late off at Turn 1 in Q2, and Tsunoda completing the top ten.

Leclerc’s late jump at the end of Q2 meant Sebastian Vettel was shuffled out in P11 after his personal best at the end of the middle segment was only good enough for briefly slotting into P10.

Behind Vettel came Esteban Ocon and George Russell, who rued a wild slide off the track at the final corner on his final lap.

The Williams driver had just set two personal bests in the opening two sectors and was on to challenge for another Q3 berth, but his successful attempts to catch the slides still put him too wide and he back off after returning to the track for the final run to the line.

Mick Schumacher scored a first on-merit Q2 appearance of his Formula 1 career, with the Haas driver ending up P14 – his best qualifying result so far – ahead of Carlos Sainz, who did not post a time as he will start Sunday’s race from last following his engine-change grid penalty.

Sainz did appear right at the end of Q2 to complete sectors on an out lap, where he was able to tow Leclerc down the hill out of Turn 8 on the lap that elevated the Ferrari driver into the top ten.

Q1 began with the cars queuing at the end of the pitlane well before the session began, the teams concerned the rain that fell throughout the morning at Istanbul and at the start of FP3 would return.

Spots of rain did fall during the opening segment, but not any intensity that would require intermediates and so the drivers stayed on the softs throughout Q1, which was topped by Hamilton.

He was one of many drivers to have off track moments and times deleted for running too wide out of the first corner, with Verstappen, Sainz, Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin all spinning through the demanding, downhill left-hander.

Once the rain threat had receded, Sainz’s late improvement at the death in Q1 knocked out Daniel Ricciardo, who had completed his final flier well before the chequered flag came out and so was shuffled down the order and into danger as others improved behind him,

The same thing happened to Nicholas Latifi, who had been running near the top of the order during the early stages, and Antonio Giovinazzi – the pair knocked out in P17 and P18.

Kimi Raikkonen could not hit a personal best on his final Q1 lap as he was eliminated in P19, only ahead of Mazepin, who did produce his best time on his last effort, which was nevertheless the slowest lap in the opening segment.

So an excellent team effort from Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton looks very quick and even though he was the fastest in qualifying, the grid penalty will drop him in the mid pack but the pace looks good for the championship leader to recovery. As for Valtteri Bottas, he has a job in going for his first win this season and preventing Max Verstappen in scoring a top result for Red Bull. Bring on the race.

Qualifying positions, Turkish Grand Prix:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:22.998
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:23.196
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.265
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:23.326
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:23.477
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:23.706
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.954
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.305
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:24.368
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.795
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’22.868*
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:24.842
13 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:25.007
14 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:25.200
15 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.881
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:26.086
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:26.430
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:27.525
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:28.449
20 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari No time
*Ten-place grid penalty following power unit change

Hamilton achieves his 100th victory in a chaotic Russian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton finally achieved his 100th victory in Formula 1 in a thrilling Russian Grand Prix. A late rain shower played a joker to long-time leader Lando Norris and it helped Max Verstappen to take second place.

As for Norris, he ended up in seventh place after trying to stay on out slicks when Hamilton, who had charged up the order in the race’s second half before getting stuck behind the McLaren ahead of the rain arriving in the final laps, pitted for intermediates.

Norris also faces a post-race investigation for crossing the pitlane-entry line when he did eventually come in to switch to the wet tyres, by which time Hamilton had swept already ahead to take the lead.

At the start, Norris’s fear of leading the pack down to the Turn 2 right-hander came true as, although he made a smooth getaway from pole, his slipstream gave a crucial advantage to those following behind.

This worked out best for Carlos Sainz as he recovered from a poor launch and George Russell jumping alongside from third, by sitting in behind Norris and then gaining ground dramatically as the two British drivers punched a hole in the air down to the first braking point.

There, Sainz swooped in front of Russell and to Norris’s outside, sealing the lead despite locking up his left-front as the pack arrived at Turn 2.

Sainz managed to stay on track and did not have to go around the bollards in the run-off, which Fernando Alonso, rejoining alongside Russell before ceding ground to the fast-starting Lance Stroll.

By the end of the first lap of 53, Sainz was out of DRS range to Norris, with Russell third and then quickly falling back from the McLaren and heading train of cars down to Hamilton in sixth – the world champion falling back down the order, boxed in at the start after briefly getting alongside Sainz on the runoff the line and before the Ferrari benefitted from Norris’s tow.

Sainz and Norris were able to run in the mid-1m41s-bracket over the opening few laps, with Russell dropping back by nearly a second a lap at time, with the rain the teams had predicted may impact the opening stages not influencing proceedings.

The two leaders broke clear, with Sainz running clear of Norris until the end of the first 10 laps, which point the Briton started to pressure the Ferrari.

After small attacks at Turn 2 on laps 10 and 11, Norris briefly backed off, describing his front left as “completely gone”, before he suddenly closed in again on lap 13 and took the lead using DRS down the back straight to get ahead on the outside line into the Turn 12 right-hander.

Ferrari then called Sainz in at the end of the following lap, the Spaniard rejoining in front of Stroll, who had triggered the first stops with an undercut attack on Russell by coming in for hards at the end of lap 12.

Russell was brought in to cover Stroll, but emerged behind the Aston Martin, which, although the undercut was powerful, could not jump Sainz too despite a slow change to the Ferrari’s left-rear.

That trio ran in clear air behind Valtteri Bottas, who had been passed by Verstappen as they and Charles Leclerc made steady progress up the order in the opening laps from their back-of-the-grid starts for changing engines – the Ferrari driver actually gaining six places on lap one.

The early stops for Sainz, Stroll and Russell meant Ricciardo, Hamilton and Sergio Perez had no choice but to stay out to avoid coming out behind them again, with Norris also staying put up front – the leader extending his lead over his teammate from eight seconds to 12 by the time Ricciardo pitted on lap 22.

The graining to the tyres the drivers – including Norris – had reported began to clear up, with the leader therefore staying out until lap 28, two laps after Mercedes had pitted Hamilton, now Norris’s main rival after Ricciardo’s stop went wrong with slow front-left change, to go from mediums to hards.

Norris rejoined after making the same compound change in the net lead, with Hamilton in the pack behind carving through the drivers that had pitted earlier – Stroll and then Sainz – plus Pierre Gasly, who was yet to stop.

That set up an eight-second difference to Norris’s net lead with 22 laps to go, Perez, Alonso and Leclerc leading the race by this stage as they ran deep on the hard tyres they, and Gasly, had started on.

As the hard-starting cars peeled off in front of Norris and Hamilton – both of whom had to pass Leclerc on track – with the Mercedes scything into the McLaren’s advantage with a series of fastest laps.

With 15 laps to the flag, Lando’s lead was down to 1.7 seconds but there Hamilton’s charge stalled.

Norris set the fastest lap using DRS has he lapped Nikita Mazepin down the back straight on lap 40, and from there he matched Hamilton in the mid-high one minute, 37 seconds, which kept the gap between the pair stable.

Attention then turned to the possibility of rain arriving in the closing laps, with drops starting fall as early as lap 42, but only getting serious four tours later.

The wet weather intensified first at the Turns 5-7 sequence at the top of the Sochi layout, with Norris initially coping better than Hamilton to pull away from the Mercedes, which had finally got within DRS range on lap 48.

But as conditions got worse, Norris defied McLaren’s call to pit for inters on lap 49, opting to try and hang on with the slicks while Hamilton did come in to change to the green-walled rubber.

The decision soon backfired on Norris as Turns 3-7 were soon soaking wet, with the rain eventually making the track slippery all the way around.

Hamilton carved into the McLaren’s lead and got ahead when Norris slid off at Turn 5 on lap 51, at the end of which he finally pitted.

With Hamilton clear ahead of take his milestone triumph, the order behind changed dramatically.

Sainz, who had cycled back to a high position despite his early stop as slow dry weather pitstops hindered several rivals, Ricciardo and Verstappen were among the first to pit for inters.

Verstappen used his to jump up the order and ran clear of Sainz by the flag – the Red Bull’s fortunes changing dramatically after his early charge had been thwarted when he rejoined from his dry stop in a mixed pack of early-stoppers and long-runners.

He came home 53.2 seconds down on Hamilton, with Sainz taking third – he too benefitting by in the rain as Perez, who stopped for inters later than most, and Ricciardo had jumped him before it arrived.

Ricciardo took fifth ahead of Bottas, another driver who rose up the order in the late wet chaos having been stuck in the pack for most of the race.

Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Russell were the first to stop for inters, and they all gained considerably in the closing moments.

Raikkonen took eighth ahead of Perez, with Russell, who had been holding onto 10th even as the long-runners slotted in around him following his early stop, claiming the final point in the rain.

Then came Aston pair Stroll and Sebastian Vettel – who collided twice just as the rain got serious – and Gasly.

Stroll and Gasly will also be investigated after the race for a clash at Turn 2 in the late chaos.

The only non-finishers were Nicholas Latifi, who retired in the pits just as the rain arrived, and Mick Schumacher, who was called in after 22 laps due to a hydraulic leak on his Haas.

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in winning his 100th race in this sport. Such an incredible achievement by the champion but do feel sorry for Lando Norris, as he led the most laps and yet got caught out in the rain. Without that late drama, Lando should have won his first win.

As for Max Verstappen, what a fight back to come through from last to the runner-up spot. This was a superb result for the Red Bull driver despite taking so many grid penalties. Let the championship battle continue.

Russian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30:41.001
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 53.271
3 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1’02.475
4 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’05.607
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’07.533
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’21.321
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’27.224
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’28.955
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1’30.076
10 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1’40.551
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’46.198
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
15 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
– Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes DNF
– Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari DNF

Norris achieves his first pole position for McLaren at Sochi

After scoring his best result in the previous race at Monza with second, Lando Norris achieved his first pole position at the Russian Grand Prix. The late, changing conditions in wet-to-dry qualifying caught out Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.

The McLaren driver will be joined on the front row by his good friend, Carlos Sainz, while George Russell continues to impressive with a solid third for Williams. The Mercedes drivers will line up fourth and seventh, with Hamilton ahead of practice pacesetter Valtteri Bottas.

After FP3 was cancelled by torrential rain in the morning at Sochi, qualifying was able to take as the rain eased ahead of the session’s scheduled starting time.

In the first two segments, which Hamilton came out on top quickest, the track remained wet enough for intermediates to be used throughout, but a dry line had just about emerged when Q3 began.

The shootout runners initially all headed out on the inters, with Hamilton posting the fastest time on that compound at one minute, 44.050 seconds and Norris slotting in just behind as the drivers completed their banker laps.

Russell and Williams were the first to commit to slicks, but did not post times that threatened those set on inters on until right at the end of Q3.

By this point all the other top ten runners had switched to the softs as well, but when Mercedes called Hamilton – who was set to improve his personal best on the inters before backing off to pit – and Bottas in, there was drama when the world champion tapped the wall coming through the tight pit entry lane inside the final corner.

Hamilton’s front wing had to be changed and his suspension checked, with Mercedes pushing him out of the way so Valtteri’s tyres could be changed and the Finn wasn’t unduly held up.

But that left both Black Arrows drivers with little time to build the necessary tyre temperature and they could not match the improvements made by the drivers that had switched to slicks earlier.

Hamilton then spun at Turn 16 on his solo flying lap on the softs, which meant he was shuffled down by the top three.

Sainz initially claimed provisional pole with a one minute, 42.510 seconds, but Norris beat him in the second and third sectors to claim a first Formula 1 career pole on a one minute, 41.993 seconds.

Russell finally found enough time to leap up from P10 to slot in ahead of his future Mercedes teammate, with Daniel Ricciardo taking fifth behind Hamilton.

Then came Fernando Alonso and Bottas, with Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rounding out the top ten.

Ricciardo and Stroll have been called to see the stewards after qualifying to investigate an incident between the pair in Q1.

At the end of Q2, Williams pitting Russell to take a fourth set of inters (since the start of qualifying) paid off as he was able to set a series of personal bests that meant he jumped into the top ten with his final lap in the middle segment.

This knocked out Sebastian Vettel, who was not on a flying lap when the chequered flag came out, as he missed the cut behind Sainz by 0.052 seconds.

Then came the AlphaTauri pair Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, with the former equalling his worst ‘normal’ qualifying position of the season in P12.

Nicholas Latifi had been given a fourth new engine of the season ahead of qualifying after a pneumatic problem was discovered on his previous power unit after Friday practice, which means he will join Charles Leclerc and Verstappen in starting at the rear of the field.

That meant that after progressing from Q1 along with Leclerc, Latifi only came out to complete two sectors early in the Q2 – and then again at the end of the session – and pitted without setting a time.

This means he will start the race ahead of Leclerc, who did not come out at all in Q2.

In Q1, Gasly headed a long queue of cars ready to hit the track as soon as the session began, the teams keen to get early times on the board in case the rain returned, with Alonso the only driver sent out on the full wets.

The times tumbled by six seconds as the track dried throughout the opening segment, which Verstappen did not take full part in considering he is also set to start at the back of the grid thanks to his engine change penalty.

The Red Bull driver emerged to complete two sectors on a single exploratory lap, at the end of which he returned to the pits and climbed out.

The session, which featured two spins – one for Perez late-on at Turn 2 and one for Antonio Giovinazzi coming out of Turn 16 just in front of Leclerc in the early stages – ended with the majority of the midfield runners pitting ahead of the closing minutes to take fresh inters.

This combined with the drying track to mean the times continued to get quicker, with all the eliminated runners – bar Giovinazzi who had backed out by this stage – setting personal bests on their final flying laps at the chequered flag.

Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out in 16th ahead of Mick Schumacher and Giovinazzi, with Nikita Mazepin the slowest of the runners to set a time – his personal best nearly four seconds slower than his Haas teammate.

So a brilliant top 3 with Lando Norris scoring his first pole position in Formula 1. With Carlos Sainz taking an excellent second, lining up alongside his good friend on the front row. Future Mercedes star George Russell qualified in P3 ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who got caught out in the changeable conditions.

As for the championship leader, Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver will start last following power unit changes and a grid penalty after his collision with Hamilton at Monza. Roll on race day at Sochi after an exciting qualifying session.

Russian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:41.993
2 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:42.510
3 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:42.983
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.050
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.156
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:44.204
7 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:44.710
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:44.956
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:45.337
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:45.865
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:46.573
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:46.641
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:46.751
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes No time
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:49.586
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:49.830
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:51.023
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:53.764
19 Charles Leclerc Ferrari No time
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda No time

McLaren takes 1-2 at Monza with Ricciardo victorious

Daniel Ricciardo won Formula 1’s 2021 Italian Grand Prix in a dramatic and controversial race at Monza as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton clashed twice and both retired.

The honey badger led home his McLaren teammate Lando Norris to take a fantastic 1-2, with Valtteri Bottas ending up in third position after making excellent progress up the order in the race’s opening half after starting last and then capitalising on the chaos that followed the incident that eliminated Verstappen and Hamilton.

That happened at the very end of the race’s pitstop stage, with the Mercedes driver coming out of the pits and trying to get back on terms with Norris, who had stopped a lap earlier, in their fight over third.

But Verstappen, the race’s polesitter and only behind Hamilton thanks to his pitstop going wrong, shot alongside the side of his title rival on the approach to the first chicane.

They went side-by-side past the Rettifilo chicane’s first apex and then with Verstappen ending up over the big kerbs leading to the second he was fired into Hamilton’s side – the Mercedes still close alongside.

Then contact put Verstappen over Hamilton’s rear wing, engine cover, roll hoop and halo, with both cars trapped in the gravel on the chicane’s outside – the Red Bull stranded on top of the front of the Mercedes.

It was a scary-looking crash with the Red Bull hitting the halo on Hamilton’s Mercedes. This is the second time that Max and Lewis had a coming together at Monza, with the first happening on the opening lap. This time, both championship contenders are out of the race.

Both were therefore out and the safety car called, which set-up a thrilling second half of the Italian Grand Prix.

At the start, Verstappen and Ricciardo leapt off the line together, but the McLaren’s acceleration was better and Ricciardo was able to pull alongside his former teammate on the run to the first corner.

With Ricciardo on the inside line he easily seized first position and pulled clear, with Hamilton, alone of the leaders to start on hard tyres and not mediums going around the outside of Norris exiting the second part of the Rettifilo chicane.

As Ricciardo led the pack to the della Roggia chicane, Hamilton shot alongside Verstappen and the pair clashed between the sequence’s two apexes – the title rivals making side-on wheel-to-wheel contact.

Hamilton therefore jumped across the kerbs to cut the second apex, which cost him momentum and allowing Norris to get back ahead into third on the approach to the first Lesmo.

The race was then briefly interrupted by a virtual safety car period, called to allow debris to be cleared from a shunt involving Carlos Sainz and Antonio Giovinazzi.

The latter was attacking Charles Leclerc for fourth into the della Roggia, but he too cut the second apex after being edged out of a move and as he rejoined the track he came across the following Sainz’s bow and was speared into the wall on the outside with the Ferrari left with no room in an incident that wiped off Giovinazzi’s front wing and dropped him to last, and for which he was doubly punished with a five-second time addition from the stewards.

The virtual safety car ended on the second lap at the end of which Ricciardo led by 1.2s over Verstappen, who then set a fastest lap to make sure he was within DRS range when the system was activated for the start of lap four of 53.

The Red Bull was able to stay within a second but could not get any closer for the next phase of the race, as the two leaders pulled clear of Norris, who was under similar intense pressure from Hamilton.

As Ricciardo and Verstappen lapped more regularly in the mid-high one minute, 26 seconds compared to Norris, the McLaren driver gradually fell back from the rear of the Red Bull – his pace also edging Hamilton back towards Leclerc.

By lap 20, Ricciardo, still only 0.9 seconds in front of Verstappen, was six seconds clear of his teammate, as McLaren and Red Bull considered when would be best to come in and get rid of the mediums their drivers were struggling to keep alive without getting stuck behind traffic in the chasing pack.

As the first stint wore on, Verstappen reported similar struggles with his rear tyres to Ricciardo, and locked up on lap 21 on the approach to the first corner – the championship leader sliding past the apex and bumping over the high kerbs behind the second apex.

That meant Ricciardo’s lead grew to 1.4 seconds and he came in at the end of the following lap to switch to the hards.

Red Bull called Verstappen in immediately afterwards on lap 23, but an 11.1 seconds stop thanks to a slow right-front change meant he had no chance of taking the lead.

The big danger for Ricciardo was suddenly from Hamilton, as he had passed Norris with a bold move to the outside of the della Roggia chicane on lap 24, but that threat ended when the Mercedes driver pitted at the end of the next tour and emerged into the crash with Verstappen.

The race was neutralised by the safety car for the next six laps, with its intervention meaning Leclerc and the chasing pack could pit and gain ground on the McLarens.

The order at the restart on lap 31 was Ricciardo, Leclerc, Norris, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz Jr and Valtteri Bottas – who had been making steady progress up the order from last on the grid thanks to his pre-Friday-qualifying engine change.

Bottas was able to get by slower rivals in a way Hamilton had struggled to against Norris in the early phase of the race and had come in during the safety car to change the hards he had started on for mediums.

Ricciardo dropped Leclerc at the restart, with Norris battling the Ferrari into the Rettifilo chicane, then getting by with a stunning blast to the inside of the Curva Grande and chasing after his teammate.

Leclerc was soon overcome by Perez – controversially when the Red Bull bumped over the kerbs at the second chicane’s second apex after his move around the outside did not come off – then Bottas, which took the Mercedes driver two attempts as Leclerc cut the first chicane on lap 33, before giving the place back then blasting by on the run to the second chicane with a handy slipstream.

Norris was pressuring Ricciardo up front, with Bottas finally passing Leclerc at the first corner a lap after his first attack had failed, urging McLaren to tell his teammate to up his pace.

Ricciardo did so under orders to show his ultimate pace on the hards to the finish, which brought up into the high one minute, 25 seconds Norris had been able to reach in the phase immediately after the safety car, with Bottas the biggest threat once Perez was handed a five-second time addition for the incident at the second chicane with Leclerc.

But as the McLarens set about pulling away, Bottas’s charge stalled behind Perez – a move around the outside of the della Roggia chicane’s first apex failing just when it looked like the Finn was ahead as he lost momentum exiting the second apex and the Red Bull moved back ahead.

Over the remaining 20 laps, Ricciardo’s increased pace pulled him gradually clear of Norris, who was told “It’s best for us where you are” after he asked McLaren if the current order was its preference.

Norris was out of DRS threat for the closing stages, with Perez likewise not in a position to threaten McLaren’s 1-2 – even as the pack negotiated a second VSC phase when Nikita Mazepin’s Haas lost drive and pulled over on the outside of the Ascari chicane on lap 43.

Compared to the middle third of the race, the final phase was much calmer, with Ricciardo coming home to take a first win since Monaco 2018 by 1.7 seconds, and for good measure setting the fastest lap of the race on the last lap.

Bottas was bumped up to third by Perez’s penalty as he could not find a way by before the finish, with the Checo ending up down in fifth behind Leclerc – but just ahead of Sainz.

Lance Stroll was seventh but faces a post-race investigation for possibly failing to slow for yellow flags, with Fernando Alonso eighth.

George Russell finished ninth ahead of Esteban Ocon – who earlier in the race had picked up a five-second time addition served at his stop for clashing with Sebastian Vettel (P12) at the second chicane.

Yuki Tsunoda did not start the race due to a brake problem, with his teammate Pierre Gasly retiring early after going through pre-start drama on the laps to the grid.

So congratulations to McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo in winning the Italian Grand Prix. What a fantastic result for the honey badger and his first win for a new team after his success with Red Bull many years ago. Kudos to his teammate Lando Norris in taking second position, giving the team a brilliant 1-2 finish.

Italian Grand Prix, race results:

1 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:21:54.365
2 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1.747
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 4.921
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 7.309
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 8.723
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 10.535
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 15.804
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 17.201
9 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 19.742
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 20.868
11 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 23.743
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 24.621
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 27.216
14 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 29.769
15 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 51.088
– Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari DNF
– Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF
– Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

Bottas wins sprint qualifying race and yet Verstappen is on pole

Valtteri Bottas won Formula 1’s second sprint qualifying race at Monza, finishing ahead of Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton was only fifth after making a poor start from alongside Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo took third for McLaren ahead of his teammate Lando Norris, who kept Hamilton at bay for the duration of the 18-lap race, which was disrupted by a first-lap crash for last year’s winner Pierre Gasly.

The result means Verstappen will start Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from the front of the grid, with Ricciardo alongside him on the front row, as Bottas will drop to the rear of the field for taking a fresh power unit before Friday evening qualifying.

At the start, Bottas led easily away from pole, chased by Verstappen, as Hamilton’s slow getaway meant he was forced to defend against Lando’s run to the inside of the first corner.

The defending world champion was then swamped by Ricciardo and Gasly on his left-hand side and as the pack closed together for the first corners Hamilton was squeezed behind the AlphaTauri and Norris on his right to drop to fifth by Turn 2’s exit.

As Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo ran clear through the long Curve Grande, Gasly, who had briefly tagged the McLaren’s left-rear and damaged his front wing as a result, shot off into the gravel when his wing broke apart and went underneath his front wheels.

Gasly skated across the gravel on the outside and crashed into the barriers, bouncing back into the gravel before coming to a stop where the Frenchman climbed out.

The incident meant the safety car was called – just after a clash between Yuki Tsunoda and Robert Kubica between the two apexes of the della Roggia chicane spun the latter around – as Gasly’s car was recovered.

The race restarted on lap four of 18, with Bottas romping clear to a 1.6 seconds lead over Verstappen, with Hamilton chasing by a pair of McLarens – both on the soft tyres versus the mediums on the two leaders and the second Mercedes.

As Norris held Hamilton at bay, even as DRS was activated at the start of lap six, Ricciardo quickly fell away from Bottas and Verstappen.

The leaders were the only drivers able to lap in the one minute, 23 seconds and by lap 10 they were over five seconds clear of Ricciardo.

Bottas and Verstappen exchanged fastest laps, but the Mercedes’ advantage never looked under threat as the gap fluctuated towards and then back from the two-second mark approaching the two-thirds-completed mark.

The leading duo continued to pull away from Ricciardo over the rest of the race, with Bottas in command up front – eventually winning by 2.3 seconds.

Ricciardo came home 14.5 seconds behind the winner, with Norris defying Hamilton, who at times was sliding around dramatically in his countryman’s wake, to the flag, where Hamilton ended up 20-seconds behind his victorious teammate.

Charles Leclerc led home his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in sixth and seventh – the former recovering from feeling unwell at the end of FP2 to take the start of the sprint race from eighth, where he climbed from in the first lap melee at the opening turns.

Sainz, who’s Ferrari had been hastily rebuilt after his heavy FP2 crash at Ascari, came home where he started and ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi.

The Alfa Romeo driver held off the charging Sergio Perez to the finish, with the Red Bull driver involved in the race’s other main flashpoint – his attempts to pass Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll on lap nine.

After attacking to the outside of Turn 1, Perez cut across the raised kerbs in the runoff beyond and stayed ahead as the pair raced towards Curve Grande.

Red Bull ordered him to give the place back, which he did approaching Ascari on the same lap, and on the next tour Perez pulled off a similar move at Turn 1 to get in front of Stroll and then start his ultimately fruitless pursuit of Giovinazzi.

Stroll finished P10 ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

Tsunoda pitted after his clash with Kubica and recovered back up the order to finish P16 with Kimi Raikkonen’s temporary replacement at Alfa Romeo coming home between the Haas cars in P18, as Gasly was the race’s only retirement.

Italian Grand Prix, sprint qualifying results:

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 27:54.078
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 2.325
3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 14.534
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 18.835
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 20.011
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 23.442
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 27.952
8 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 31.089
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 31.680
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 38.671
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 39.795
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 41.177
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 43.373
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 45.977
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 46.821
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 49.977
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:02.599
18 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.096
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:06.154
20 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

Bottas is quickest in Monza qualifying

Valtteri Bottas will start Formula 1’s sprint qualifying race at Monza from first position ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton, as Mercedes dominated Friday evening qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s championship rival Max Verstappen qualified third for the sprint race, which will set Sunday’s main race grid, but finished 0.411 seconds adrift of Bottas, who was running a newly fitted fresh power unit for the Q1-Q2-Q3 session.

After the first runs in Q3, it was Hamilton who led the way with a one minute, 19.949 seconds, where Verstappen trailed in second just 0.17 seconds adrift.

But although Hamilton followed Bottas around for the final flying lap – the Mercedes cars had not given each other tow in the earlier segments – Valtteri gained ground throughout.

Bottas posted purple sectors in opening two thirds of the Monza lap and roared around to post a time with one minute, 19.555 seconds, as Hamilton improved on his own personal best, but wound up 0.096 seconds adrift.

After taking a fourth engine of 2021, Bottas will serve a grid penalty for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, with the sanction only applying once Saturday’s sprint qualifying race has finished.

Verstappen had been significantly adrift of the Mercedes pair earlier in qualifying, but his pace on the first Q3 lap raised hopes of a Red Bull challenge.

But despite running close behind teammate Sergio Perez, who qualified down in ninth, Verstappen could not set a personal best on his final effort in any sector.

Lando Norris was just 0.065 seconds behind Hamilton after the first Q3 runs and although he found time on the second efforts – both times Norris followed teammate Daniel Ricciardo – Lando finished 0.434 seconds behind Valtteri’s best.

Ricciardo took fifth, along with the fastest time in the final sector, while Pierre Gasly was sixth for AlphaTauri.

Carlos Sainz made a late improvement to jump ahead of Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc in Q3, with Leclerc grappling with an intermittent engine braking problem throughout Q1 and Q2.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi made it through to Q3 for the second successive race, this time on home soil, with the Italian driver rounding out the top ten.

Q2, topped by Hamilton, ended with a flurry of fast times, which followed a pitlane scramble to get back onto the track ahead of the final runs.

The Aston Martin cars appeared be released into the path of the Mercedes drivers and Verstappen, with Sebastian Vettel ending up very close to Hamilton’s right-side wheels as he went around an Aston mechanic that had to hold Lance Stroll before a path was cleared.

Ocon also appeared from the Alpine garage as the pack ran down the pitlane, with Leclerc also getting out ahead and the entire incident set to be investigated after qualifying.

All five drivers that were knocked out in Q2 set personal best times on their final fliers, with the pack backing off ahead of the Parabolica but all the drivers getting through in time to complete a final lap.

Vettel was vocally frustrated to be knocked out in P11 ahead of Stroll, with the Astons followed by Alpine duo Fernando Alonso and Ocon.

George Russell qualified P15 for Williams, after only making it through to Q2 after Yuki Tsunoda lost his Q1 personal best for running too wide out of the final corner on his last lap.

Traffic was a major issue in Q1, with Verstappen and Gasly particularly aggrieved to come across cars at the della Roggia chicane and the Ascari chicane in separate incidents midway through the opening segment, the former arriving with the Alpine cars and Stroll going slowly in front of him, while the latter had to back out of a lap after coming across Leclerc going slowly through Ascari’s first apex.

A massive pack of cars toured slowly down the back straight in the final seconds before the chequered flag came out, but all were able to get in one final effort.

Improvements from Alonso, Ocon and Tsunoda shuffled the Williams drivers down the order and both seemingly out.

Russell nearly paid the price for not setting a personal best on his final Q1 flier, something Latifi also did not do as he ended up behind Tsunoda before the AlphaTauri lost its final time, while Mick Schumacher, Robert Kubica and Nikita Mazepin saved their best for last.

But personal bests right at the end of Q1 could not get them any higher up the order than P18, P19 and P20, with Tsunoda’s second fastest time good enough for P17.

Mazepin faces a post-qualifying investigation for appearing to impede Kubica at the first Lesmo ahead of the final runs, but will not face an investigation for an incident where he was called out of his garage only narrowly in front of Leclerc and Sainz during Q1’s early stages.

So congratulations Valtteri Bottas with this P1. This is not pole position for the Italian Grand Prix due to the format change. This is a top slot for the sprint, qualifying race on Saturday. Winning this quick race will be the official pole position at Monza.

Italian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:19.555
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.651
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:19.966
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.989
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.995
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:20.260
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:20.462
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:20.510
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:20.611
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:20.808
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:20.913
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:21.020
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:21.069
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:21.103
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:21.392
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:21.925
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:21.973
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:22.248
19 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:22.530
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:22.716