Valtteri Bottas won the qualifying sprint for the Italian Grand Prix, but in a format that seems unwieldy and turgid, he is neither the winner of the race nor does he claim pole position. Formula One admitted that it is considering adjusting the sprint function for the weekend once again in an attempt to inject some excitement into it.
Bottas has a grid penalty that puts Max Verstappen, second, on pole for Sunday’s race. He’s in a real position to extend his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton, who was fifth after a poor start in the 18-lap event and has admitted that Verstappen should get an easy win.
Sprint qualifying to decide the grid for Sunday’s grand prix is the race F1 insists is not a race. The victor is not claiming a victory, but pole, and yet in this case the driver who finished first, Bottas, will start from the rear of the grid having taken an entirely new power unit this weekend beyond team assignment. If this wasn’t unsatisfactory enough for a format that was introduced to animate the sport, the race itself was once again a processional affair, just as it was when it was first tested at Silverstone.
Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez condemned it as “very boring” and added: “I imagine it is also boring for the fans, boring for the drivers. To be honest, it doesn’t contribute anything. “
Given that some drivers are understood to favor the sprint being run as a separate short race with a reverse grid, F1 sporting director Ross Brawn admitted that a format change was being considered, including a mixed grid for the sprint. Saturday and awarding more points than the three, two and one currently offered for the top three drivers.
“Some of the drivers felt that there should be more reward for the sprint and more danger in the sprint,” he said. “Perhaps an independent event is a consideration. Qualifying on Friday, race on Sunday and a separate event with a decent payoff and a little danger on the grid. I would have to go to him [drivers’ standing], for the drivers to fight hard you have to have a decent reward. “
Verstappen was followed home by Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris’ McLarens in third and fourth, the Australian’s best qualifying this season. However, the order of the top seven remained as it was after the first lap, when Hamilton slipped from second on the grid.
Hamilton got off to a shocking start and went off the line, dropping to fifth place as he passed Curva Grande. Starting from fourth place, he has already admitted that the race will be damage limitation. With the two sprint points, Verstappen now has a five-point lead over the world champion.
“It all started off off to a bad start,” Hamilton said. “We lost a lot of points today. Now I have to figure out how I’m going to beat the McLarens tomorrow. I will try to limit the damage.
“Everyone has been able to see the speed of Verstappen and Red Bull. He’s very fast and he’s starting from pole, so it should be an easy win for him. In the meantime, I just have to try to get past those two guys in front of me. “
Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters at the Tokyo Games, Italian sprinter Lamont Marcell Jacobs, was on hand to present medals to the top three, another experiment with innovation that felt quite empty for an event that even the pilots hardly seem like. excited. The sense of accomplishment and the adrenaline-fueled excitement they express after qualifying has been lacking in both sprint events thus far.
Hamilton had places to make up behind Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Norris, but struggled to get close enough to the McLarens, who are very strong in a straight line. He pushed hard, nearly losing the rear at the exit of the first corner to Lesmo, but couldn’t dent Norris’s lead as Bottas and Verstappen crossed to the flag in front.
With no major points on offer or a strategic element, there was no sense of danger and the format once again lacked urgency or the feeling that the drivers were willing to risk anything, for fear of spoiling their chances when it really mattered.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz came in sixth and seventh for Ferrari, Antonio Giovinazzi in eighth for Alfa Romeo, Red Bull’s Pérez in ninth, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in tenth and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in eleventh.
All drivers will move up one place on the grid in their final positions after the Bottas penalty.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism