Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes must capitalise on Saturday after a front-row lockout for the team, holding back main title rival Red Bull ahead of the Italian Grand Prix sprint qualifying session. Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas was the fastest qualifier and will start from the front of the grid, with championship leader Max Verstappen starting third.
Hamilton currently sits three points behind Verstappen in the driver standings, and with extra points on the table this weekend due to sprint qualifying, the seven-time world champion was pleased with their performance.
“I mean look every point counts,” began Hamilton.
“Firstly, congratulations to Valtteri, that was a mega lap. it was looking pretty good for us, on my side, up until the end and then he just went quicker.
“I mean we’ve seen the championship lost by one point. You know how that goes.
“There’s been a lot of points lost this year on both sides, so every point really counts.
“But the sprint races definitely can add and help, so we have to try and capitalise on that.”
Meanwhile Bottas, who Mercedes have recently dropped from George Russell next season, silenced any critics by setting the fastest lap in the session and will start at the front for tomorrow’s sprint qualifying session.
“That qualifying lap was nice,” began Bottas. “It feels so good when you get a nice lap, it was nice to get a tow finally.
“I feel good, relaxed and everything is sorted for the future. The car feels so good, focus on tomorrow’s Sprint race – try to take maximum points and see what we can do on Sunday.”
The championship leader Verstappen will start third in the sprint qualifying session on Saturday, with the results determining the grid on Sunday.
“I think for us around this track, it’s always going to be difficult,” Verstappen said.
“We struggled more than we wanted in the in the free practice but I think we recovered quite well throughout this this qualifying session, so I’m happy to be third here.
“And I think for the race, hopefully we can be a bit closer and you never know around here.
“I mean tomorrow, we first have of course FP2 so we can see what we can do to help the long-run pace a bit more.
“But of course, naturally. For us, it will be a bit more difficult around here but nevertheless, I think we can score a good amount of points.”
However, Bottas has taken a new power unit ahead of the Italian Grand Prix and will start from the back of the grid, regardless of where he finishes during sprint qualifying.
Both Mercedes drivers have used up their penalty-free allocation of power unit components for the season, with the team still pondering if Hamilton will also take a new engine ahead of the race.