Hamilton predicts 'easy win' for Verstappen at Italian Grand Prix

By Sports Desk September 11, 2021

Lewis Hamilton has predicted an "easy win" for championship rival Max Verstappen in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix and is focused only on trying to "limit the damage" caused by his disappointing showing in the sprint race.

Mercedes driver Hamilton was made to pay for a poor launch in Saturday's half-hour 18-lap race as he slipped from second down to fifth, behind Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen and winner Valtteri Bottas.

With Verstappen starting from the back of the grid on Sunday after taking a penalty for a power unit change, each driver moves up a place, meaning Hamilton will start in fourth and Verstappen in pole position.

Victory in the sprint race – just the second to have ever been staged after the inaugural event at Silverstone in July – also meant Red Bull's Verstappen extended his championship lead over Hamilton from three points to five.

And seven-time world champion Hamilton fears that gap could grow wider come the end of the main event in Italy, with the Briton's main aim being to finish ahead of McLaren pair Ricciardo and Norris in second place.

"We lost a lot of points," he told Sky Sports. "I've got to try and figure out how I can get by the McLarens tomorrow, and try to limit the damage. 

"It's not the outcome we wanted and we can't afford days like these, especially when it is this close in the championship.

"You saw the pace of the Red Bull. I don't know if Max was quicker than Valtteri but they're so fast, and now he's on pole, so it should be an easy win for him."

 

Verstappen was considered an outsider for the sprint but comfortably finished in second, though the Dutchman is taking nothing for granted heading into Sunday's race.

"I expected we would lose points on Saturday, but I have increased the lead a little," he told De Telegraaf. "Every little bit helps, of course. But it can also quickly turn around. I know all about that.

"I don't expect it to be a straightforward and easy race – Valtteri coming from the back, Lewis P4, they have a lot of pace, so we'll see what we can do against them."

Bottas' triumph came in the same week it was confirmed he will switch from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo next year, having been dropped in favour of George Russell.

The Finn also led the way in the traditional qualifying session on Friday and his sprint race victory never looked in doubt as he retained first place throughout.

With the elation of finishing first comes some disappointment for Bottas, however, as he always knew he would be starting the main event from the back of the grid due to Mercedes' decision to add a number of new power unit elements to his car.
 
"What can I say, it's been a perfect weekend so far and now I have a grid penalty," he said. "That happens, but it's good to see we have good speed from the car here, good pace, and I'll be fighting tomorrow, going as high as I can.

"For sure it's annoying. We've done good the last two days, with good performances and then you kind of reset completely for the day after and you start from the back.

"Those are things that are out of my hands, so I won't waste too much energy or be too negative about it because there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.

"The only thing I can do is try my best and go full gas tomorrow. At least I got a few points – every point counts for me personally and for us as a team."

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  • Another grid penalty for Hamilton 'could be worth taking', says Wolff Another grid penalty for Hamilton 'could be worth taking', says Wolff

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has explained why Lewis Hamilton was forced to replace his engine and take a grid penalty on Sunday, refusing to rule out a repeat before the end of the season.

    The Briton's 10-place penalty after topping qualifying contributed to a fifth-place finish at the Turkish Grand Prix, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas winning and title rival Max Verstappen finishing second to move six points clear of Hamilton in the championship standings.

    However, Wolff revealed that the team felt they had no choice but to take a new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) due to issues with Hamilton's previous power unit.

    He insisted there had been no tactical timing to the decision, which was needed for technical reasons.

    "We had to do it," Wolff told Sky Sports. "We saw some data on the Internal Combustion unit that didn't look very promising and a DNF is a total killer for the championship.

    "We've seen over the course of the season that we've had some little gremlins that we weren't completely sure where they came from and how much performance they could potentially cost.

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    "I think we understand much better now where the root cause lies and it's something that can happen from time to time if you just have a material issue, a batch problem and these are the things you need to consider."

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    "The fourth one can last until the end of the season but there could be a moment where we say is it worth taking a fresh one because the other one is still at risk," Wolff continued.

    "So this is something that is going to be really a work in progress."

    There are six races to go in the 2021 Formula One season, a run that starts with the United States Grand Prix - an event Hamilton has won a record six times - on October 24.

  • Hamilton denies being 'furious' with Mercedes as he vows to learn from Turkish GP pit call Hamilton denies being 'furious' with Mercedes as he vows to learn from Turkish GP pit call

    Lewis Hamilton has denied being "furious" with Mercedes over the decision to pull him in for a pit stop late on in Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix.

    The seven-time world champion had climbed from 11th in the grid to third when called by his team to switch onto intermediate tyres on the wet surface.

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    He made his apparent frustration clear at the time, saying over the team radio: "Why did you give up that place? We shouldn't have come in."

    However, Hamilton feels the disagreement has been blown out of proportion, even if he accepts lessons can be learned.

    "I've seen some of the press this morning, which has made a bit too much of the incident in yesterday's race of when to pit," he posted on his personal Instagram account.

    "It isn't true to say I'm furious with my team. 

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    Hamilton, who qualified fastest but was handed a 10-place grid penalty due to an engine change, is now six points behind championship leader Max Verstappen.

    Verstappen finished second in Istanbul, with Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas claiming victory, and the Dutchman acknowledges Red Bull have a lot more work to do if he is to claim a first Formula One world title.

    "Of course overall I think we have been at tracks that naturally were a bit better for Mercedes, but then this track was a bit unknown, and clearly they were ahead of us," he told Sky Sports.

    "I do think we need to step it up a bit to be in the fight until the end of the season."

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