Lando Norris will endeavour to make the most of his "amazing" maiden pole position at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 21-year-old British driver finished quickest in his McLaren in Sochi on Saturday, edging out Carlos Sainz, while compatriot George Russell was third.

Lewis Hamilton will start from fourth on the grid, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll make up the rest of the front eight.

Championship leader Max Verstappen will start from the back of the grid after his Red Bull had a new engine installed.

Norris, who made his Formula One debut in 2019, hopes to capitalise on a shock opportunity after a thrilling rain-affected qualifying session.

"It’s my first in X number of races, and it could be my only pole for a while. It feels amazing, especially in these conditions," Norris told a media conference.

"Another race win for McLaren would be lovely. But I don’t expect so, I think Mercedes are a long way up the road from us and Red Bull probably similar.

"I think with either conditions I can look forward to it. We can score some good points, we can have a good race, because we are in the best position possible."

Norris joked the circuit in Sochi was not ideal for his first-ever pole but is hopeful he can make a good start to the race.

He added: "Probably the only place I wouldn’t want to be pole is here, especially with the straight down to turn one, but I’m still very happy.

"We saw that the cars are in a good position, in the wet now and also in the dry. It's a long run down to turn one or turn two, so I have to look forward to that and make sure I prepare for that well."

Ferrari driver Sainz acknowledged the front two can expect to be tested by their rivals, but the nature of the track may give them some assistance.

"It’s a strange circuit, this one, because obviously race pace is important and we need to see how easy it is to overtake," said the Spaniard.

"Normally in the past it has been quite tricky. Obviously, we have the two Mercs and the Red Bull that are going to be pushing us a lot.

"They are clearly, around here, half a second to a second quicker than us, so at some point they will put pressure on us and we will need to see if we can keep ourselves ahead.

"Obviously, the target is to finish ahead of them, try to get Lando at the start – although I am starting on the dirty side, he is at least starting on the clean side – and see from there if we can race hard and have some fun at the front."

Lando Norris claimed a famous maiden pole position for McLaren at the Russian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton paid the price for a crash in the pits.

Norris went quickest in rain-soaked Sochi, edging out Carlos Sainz by six hundredths of a second, while Williams' George Russell was third.

With championship leader Max Verstappen ordered to start from the back of the grid after his Red Bull had a new engine installed, there was a chance for Hamilton to put pressure on his main rival.

However, the seven-time champion collided with the pit-lane wall and was forced to change his front wing before spinning on his final lap.

Hamilton will start from fourth on the grid, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll make up the rest of the front eight.

"Oh, boy. I don't know what to say," said a breathless Norris. "You never think you're going to get a pole until you get it, and now I've managed to do it.

"It was tricky. The lap before, I was, like, two seconds down and I wasn't confident we were going to improve on the previous lap, but I kept the tyres warm and risked quite a bit, I will admit, but it paid off. I'm a happy boy.

"I'm not really looking forward to [the race]! I'm not looking forward to being the first down to turn one. But you never know – it's going to set us up well. I'm just really happy."

After third practice was cancelled due to the torrential rain, Hamilton had set the fastest time heading into Q3, ahead of team-mate Bottas and Alonso.

Hamilton looked heavy favourite after clocking a new fastest time until his mishap as he came into the pits to change to soft tyres.

With time enough only for one more lap, the Briton spun and nudged the wall, leaving him unable to deny Norris a famous day in Russia as McLaren celebrated a first pole since 2012.

"Twice in the wall... that's very rare for me," said Hamilton. "I'm really sorry to all the team because that's not what you expect from a champion."

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Lando Norris (McLaren) 1:41:993
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.517
3. George Russell (Williams) +0.990
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +2.057
5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +2.163
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +2.211
7. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +2.717
8. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +2.963
9. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +3.344
10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +3.872

Max Verstappen joked he "can barely sleep" after Lewis Hamilton suggested his title rival might be feeling the pressure as he fights for a maiden world championship crown.

Red Bull driver Verstappen leads Hamilton by five points ahead of this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, where he will serve a three-place grid penalty after colliding with the Mercedes man at Monza two weeks ago.

This is the closest the top two have been after 14 races since the 2016 battle between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg (two points).

While Verstappen is seeking his first title in what is his seventh season in Formula One, Hamilton has finished top on seven occasions, the first of those triumphs coming in 2008.

The Briton was involved in a tense battle while with McLaren the previous year and, reflecting on that experience, believes he knows exactly what Verstappen is feeling right now.

"Obviously he won't admit to it, and I'm not going to make an assumption, but I'm just saying I remember what it was like battling for my first championship," he said on Thursday.

"The pressure definitely mounted up. It was difficult. It was intense. I was going through a lot of different emotions and I didn't always handle it the best and that's to be expected.

"I know the pressure that comes with it and the experiences, so I can empathise with that.

"I do believe that he will continue to get stronger, and I'm hopeful we won't have any more incidences like last time through the rest of the year.

"I never expect a driver to back down. What's important is that we just continue to race hard and fair, and I have no doubts that we will both be professional and learn from the past."

 

However, when those comments were relayed back to championship leader Verstappen, the Dutchman offered a sarcastic response.

"I'm so nervous I can barely sleep. It's so horrible to fight for a title. I really hate it," he said.

"Those comments just show that he really doesn't know me. Which is fine. I also don't need to know him.

"I just focus on myself and I really enjoy it out there at the front, and hopefully we can do that for a very long time.

"I am very chilled. It is the best feeling ever to have a car, a great car, where you can go into every weekend and you can fight for a win."

Mercedes have triumphed at Monza every year since 2014 – no team has won more races at a single grand prix without failing – and Hamilton has the chance to reclaim the title lead should that be the case again this weekend.

"It's very, very important, as important as it can be," Hamilton said. 

Lewis Hamilton is hanging on in the Formula One title race, but Mercedes are now ready to attack the 2021 run-in.

Seven-time champion Hamilton, chasing a record eighth crown, made a stunning start to the season, with three wins and a second-placed finish from the first four races.

In the 10 grands prix since, though, the Briton has taken the top spot of the podium just once, leaving him still waiting on his 100th win after a four-race drought.

Hamilton still entered the mid-season break with the championship lead, but a brutal triple-header saw him slip behind Max Verstappen, who recorded back-to-back triumphs before taking points in the sprint race at Monza, despite then crashing out alongside his rival.

Clashes between the pair have been frequent this year, but a short break before Sunday's Russian Grand Prix has allowed the contenders to focus again.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said ahead of Sochi: "Our aim is to pull together a strong weekend, starting in FP1 and building one session at a time.

"Lewis is in the 10th championship battle of his F1 career, and he is laser focused on what he needs to deliver in the next eight races.

"As for Valtteri [Bottas], he's driving better than ever, like we saw in Monza – and he will be flat out every weekend.

"There's a calm determination about the team right now and the business end of a season, fighting for championships, is exactly what we enjoy the most."

Mercedes still lead the constructors' championship ahead of Red Bull.

LAST TIME OUT

Neither Verstappen nor Hamilton finished in Italy after a remarkable crash that saw the Dutchman's car land on top of his rival's halo.

Both drivers were forced to retire, with Hamilton telling of how he was "so grateful I am still here" and "incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me".

"I don't think I've ever been hit on the head by a car before," he said. "And it is quite a big shock for me."

With the two leading men ruled out, McLaren capitalised with a stunning one-two – their first since the 2010 Canadian GP.

Having just slipped behind rivals Ferrari in the standings, it was a huge result for the British outfit, as they moved back up to third.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN RUSSIA

It will be interesting to see how Verstappen and Hamilton approach this race, surely keen to avoid a repeat of Monza but also unable to risk taking their foot of the pedal in this tense tussle.

Mercedes have won every previous Russian GP, although they have been the outstanding team in each of those seasons. Now they face a real challenge.

The battle between McLaren and Ferrari is just as tense, although Bottas is maintaining a gap to Lando Norris after finishing third twice.

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Mercedes dominant – With four wins for Hamilton, two for Bottas and one for Nico Rosberg, Mercedes have a 100 per cent record in Sochi. No team have won more races at a single grand prix without failing.

Hamilton at home – Hamilton has reached the podium in seven of his seven entries, registering a record four wins. His worst result was fourth in 2017.

Bottas from behind – Five of the seven winners have started on the front row, with Bottas' two victories after qualifying third the exceptions.

Ferrari frustration – Only in Abu Dhabi (12) have Ferrari made more appearances without winning ever than in Russia (seven). They have had two pole positions, two fastest laps and six podiums.

Tight at the top – The gap of five points between Verstappen and Hamilton is the closest the top two have been after 14 races since the 2016 battle between Hamilton and Rosberg (two points).

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 226.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 221.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 141
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 132
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 118

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 362.5
2. Red Bull – 344.5
3. McLaren – 215
4. Ferrari – 201.5
5. Alpine – 95

Lewis Hamilton was "so grateful" to be alive after he came out of a crash with Max Verstappen unscathed.

The Formula One championship rivals collided midway through Sunday's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which was won by Daniel Ricciardo.

Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix following the collision, with his Red Bull having become airborne after he went over the kerbs while trying to go down the inside of Hamilton at turn two.

The Red Bull went over the top of Hamilton's Mercedes but, thankfully, the halo protection device, which sits above the driver's head, took the blow, protecting the world champion.

Hamilton confirmed he would have to receive medical attention ahead of the next race but came away complaining only of soreness and a slight pain in his neck.

"I feel very fortunate today," Hamilton told reporters. "Thank God for the halo which saved me, and saved my neck.

"I am so grateful I am still here. I feel incredibly blessed that someone was watching over me today. I don't think I've ever been hit on the head by a car before - and it is quite a big shock for me.

"We are taking risks and it's only when you experience something like that that you get the real shock of how you look at life and how fragile we all are.

"If you look at the images of the crash, my head is really quite far forward in the cockpit."

Hamilton also tweeted to his official account, writing: "It's days like today, I am reminded of how lucky I am.

"It takes a millisecond to go from racing to a very scary situation. Today someone must have been looking down, watching over me! #TeamLH: I'm so thankful for each and everyone of you, you are truly the best. Still we rise!"

Max Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix following his collision with Lewis Hamilton at Monza on Sunday. 

The Formula One title rivals crashed at turn two during the Italian Grand Prix, with the Red Bull becoming airborne after Verstappen went over the kerbs while trying to go down the inside. 

The Dutchman's car landed on top of Hamilton's and they both ended up beached in the gravel, with Daniel Ricciardo going on to win the race as part of a famous McLaren one-two. 

Verstappen protested that he was not left sufficient space by Hamilton, while Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accused the Red Bull driver of committing a "tactical foul".

Race stewards investigated the incident after the chequered flag and deemed that Verstappen – whose hopes of winning had seemingly evaporated with a botched pitstop – was guilty of causing the collision that ended both their races.

A statement read: "The stewards heard from the driver of Car 33 (Max Verstappen), the driver of Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton) and team representatives, reviewed the video evidence and determined that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the collision with Car 44 at turn two.

"Car 44 was exiting the pits. Car 33 was on the main straight. At the 50m board before turn one, Car 44 was significantly ahead of Car 33. Car 33 braked late and started to move alongside Car 44, although at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44.

"During the hearing the driver of Car 33 asserted that the cause of the incident was the driver of Car 44 opening the steering after turn one and 'squeezing' him to the apex of turn two. The driver of Car 44 asserted that the driver of Car 33 attempted to pass very late and should have given up the corner either by backing off sooner, or by turning left behind the kerb.

"The Stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb. But further, the Stewards observed that Car 33 was not at all alongside Car 44 until significantly into the entry into turn one. In the opinion of the Stewards, this manoeuvre was attempted too late for the driver of Car 33 to have 'the right to racing room'.

"While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the Stewards determined that his position was reasonable and therefore find that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the incident.

"In coming to the penalty the Stewards emphasise that they have only considered the incident itself and not the consequences thereof.

"Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described Lewis Hamilton's crash with Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix as a "tactical foul" by the Red Bull driver.

The drivers' championship front-runners collided at Monza, having also come together at the British Grand Prix, forcing both to retire from the race.

After labouring behind eventual winner Daniel Ricciardo, who led a McLaren one-two, Verstappen's hopes of victory were seemingly dashed with a pit stop that saw him stationary for 11.1 seconds.

Hamilton then emerged from his pit stop at the start of lap 26 alongside Verstappen, who attempted to sneak down the inside at turn two, only to catch the kerbs and send his car airborne before it landed on top of the Mercedes, with both ending up in the gravel trap.

Having come second in the sprint race, Verstappen extended his championship lead by two points. He now holds a five-point advantage.

The incident is the subject of a stewards' investigation, but Wolff indicated he believes the blame lies with the Dutchman.

"The stewards are going to decide who is to blame. There is predominantly to blame, I guess, we've seen that in the past. I think in football you'd say it was a tactical foul," Wolff told Sky Sports. 

"He probably knew that if Lewis stays ahead, that is the race win possibly.

"I think when you look at turn four, Lewis backed out and that was quite a thing because probably you know he's staying ahead of you. And then incidents where they actually crash, it was clear for Max in there that they would crash.

"I think if we don't manage that in the right way, this is going to continue. They had a high-speed crash at Silverstone, we had one car ending on top of the other one on Lewis' head here, so how far can you go? Maybe next time we'll have a high-speed crash and land on each other."

Hamilton added: "I was racing as hard as I could, finally got past Lando [Norris], I was in the lead so they pitted me, pit-stop was obviously slow, lost a couple of seconds.

"I came out, saw that Daniel came past, Max was coming, I made sure I let a car's width on the outside to him. I went into Turn 1 and I was ahead, I was ahead going into turn two, then all of a sudden he was on top of me."

Asked if Verstappen could have backed out of the corner, Hamilton replied: "Absolutely. Exactly the same scenario that happened in turn four, where I went around the outside, I was in exactly the same position, but I gave way. And that's racing.

"He just didn't want to give way today, he knew when he was going into turn two what was going to happen, he knew he was going over the kerb but still did it. We'll speak to the stewards and we'll see."

Daniel Ricciardo was ecstatic after McLaren claimed an "insane" one-two at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.

McLaren driver Ricciardo started in second and overtook pole-sitter Max Verstappen into turn one at Monza, going on to claim his first Formula One win since 2018, when he drove for Red Bull.

This latest success ended a wait since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix for the Woking-based McLaren team to top an F1 podium, while Lando Norris following Ricciardo home in second represented their first one-two since 2010 in Canada.

A collision between championship leader Max Verstappen and title-holder Lewis Hamilton that forced both out of the race brought out the safety car, and Ricciardo never looked like surrendering first place from there.

"Can I swear? I want to swear! About – time," said Ricciardo.

"I mean obviously it [the start] worked well for me [in Saturday's sprint race] and I knew, to be honest, even if we got the start it was never a guarantee we'd lead the whole race.

"I was able to hold firm out front in the first stint. I don't think we had like mega speed, but it was enough to keep Max behind. There was safety cars and this and that, but to lead literally from start to finish, I don't think any of us expected that.

"There was something in me on Friday. I knew there was something good to come. I've just been a sandbagging S.O.B. the whole year. Thirds, fourths, fifths – you might as well just win, so that's what I did!

"Honestly, the August break was good just to reset. I felt better the last three weekends. To not only win but to get a one-two, it's insane.

"For McLaren to be on the podium is huge, let alone a one-two. This is for 'team papaya'. I'm, for once, lost for words."

Norris was ordered not to attack Ricciardo and admitted he would have liked to have been the one topping the podium, though he was happy to settle for a career-best finish as runner-up and look forward to chances to triumph in future.

"First of all, a big thanks to everyone, all the fans, all the team. We've had a pretty awesome weekend," said Norris.

"Four years ago, I joined the team and we've been working towards this and we got a one-two finally. A good step for us and I'm happy for Daniel and me of course getting P2, so I'm happy for the team.

"Of course [I wanted the win]. You've been in that position where you want to go for it, but I'm here for the long term, I'm here for the team. It could've ended up like the other two [Verstappen and Hamilton] ended up.

"I'm just happy. I'm happy finishing second, I'm happy for Daniel in first place. I'll have my chance in the future, so it's all good."

Daniel Ricciardo ended his and McLaren's long wait for a Formula One victory after a collision between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton sent the title rivals out of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. 

Ricciardo's last win had come in Monaco in 2018 when he was at Red Bull, while McLaren saw one of their drivers top the podium for the first time since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris followed his team-mate across the line as McLaren claimed a famous one-two – their first since the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix – after Verstappen and Hamilton scarily crashed out midway through the race.

Although neither championship contender was able to finish and the incident was to be investigated after the race, Verstappen still increased his advantage in the drivers' standings by two points this weekend having finished second in the sprint race.

Valtteri Bottas, who was classified third on Sunday after a five-second time penalty for Sergio Perez, won the sprint race but started at the back of the race grid after taking a new power unit, so Verstappen lined up on pole alongside Ricciardo.

McLaren's straight-line speed was expected to make them contenders in the race and Ricciardo took the lead into turn one, with Hamilton going off track and returning to fourth after making contact with Verstappen at the second chicane.

Verstappen laboured behind Ricciardo and his hopes of victory were seemingly dashed when he was stationary for 11.1 seconds during his first pit stop, and he was alongside Hamilton when the reigning champion emerged from his stop at the start of lap 26.

The Dutchman looked to sneak down the inside at turn two but caught the kerbs and his car went airborne, landing on top of the Mercedes and sending both into the gravel.

A safety car was deployed and Ricciardo led the race competently, with Norris ordered not to challenge him for the victory, ensuring a memorable and long-awaited result for McLaren.

 

Magisterial McLaren

By taking the lead on the opening lap and controlling the race until he pitted, Ricciardo had already led more laps for McLaren than the team had managed since Hamilton's departure at the end of the 2012 season.

Bad blood developing

They had already clashed at Imola and Silverstone this season, but this time contact between Verstappen and Hamilton resulted in both drivers failing to finish. The Briton accused Verstappen of pushing him wide when they collided on the opening lap, while the Red Bull driver had a similar complaint following their race-ending crash.

Ghastly day for Gasly and AlphaTauri

After the elation of winning his first F1 race at Monza in 2020, Pierre Gasly and AlphaTauri's day this time could not have been any different. He started from the pits after a crash in the sprint race but retired early on, while Yuki Tsunoda was unable to start due to a mechanical issue.

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."

Lewis Hamilton will start the Italian Grand Prix in fourth after being made to pay for a slow start to Saturday's sprint race at Monza, which saw Valtteri Bottas come out on top.

Mercedes driver Hamilton started in second but dropped to fifth early on and only managed to recover one place in the half-hour 18-lap race.

Bottas took control of the sprint – just the second ever after the inaugural event at Silverstone in July – and finished in front of Max Verstappen to take three points.

However, the Finn will start from the back of the grid on Sunday after taking a penalty for a power unit change, meaning that Verstappen moves into pole position.

With his second-placed finish, Verstappen also extends his World Championship lead over Hamilton by two points, while Daniel Ricciardo completed the top three.

"I feel good. It feels like it has been a while to finish first in a race," Bottas told Sky Sports.

"Unfortunately I'm starting from the back tomorrow but the speed is there, so I'll be fighting and coming as high as I can. Today, I enjoy and it was a clean race. We had a good pace. All good.

"Tomorrow is not going to be easy, that's for sure. The train of cars with DRS, it's not easy but obviously strategy-wise, still a free choice of tyres for the start, so let's see if we can do something."

The race got off to a frantic start as Pierre Gasly, who triumphed on this circuit last year, crashed out on Turn 1 after clipping Ricciardo  and losing control of his AlphaTauri.

The safety car was deployed for the next three laps and McLaren pair Ricciardo and Lando Norris were able to successfully stay in front of Hamilton.

Hamilton did not have a chance to attack Norris, though he did at least stay clear of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, the Ferrari duo finishing sixth and seventh respectively.

Valtteri Bottas capped off a busy week by recording the fastest time in Friday's qualifying session at the Italian Grand Prix.

It was confirmed on Monday that Bottas will end his five-season association with Mercedes at the end of 2021, with the Finn to join Alfa Romeo.

George Russell will replace Bottas as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate, but before that there is still a world title for Mercedes to fight for, and they secured a one-two ahead of Saturday's sprint race at Monza.

Bottas registered a time of 1:19.555 to finish just 0.096s quicker than defending world champion Hamilton, with current championship leader Max Verstappen rounding off a disappointing session in third place.

It means Bottas will start in pole for Saturday's sprint, which will decide the grid placings for Sunday's grand prix.

Speaking after the hour-long session, Hamilton – who trails Verstappen by three points – said: "Every point counts. Congratulations to Valtteri [Bottas], he did a mega lap.

"It was looking good for us up to then but he went quicker and I couldn't match it.

"We've lost the championship [in the past] by one point. These sprint races can help. The Italian fans are so beautiful, it is good to see them and good to be back here. What an amazing circuit."

Bottas, meanwhile, is looking to capitalise on his efforts heading into the weekend.

"That qualifying lap was nice and it feels good when you get a nice lap in," he said.

"It was good fun and I feel relaxed now everything is sorted for the future. The car has been so good and next year will be exciting for me and I'm looking forward to it.

"I'm expecting to get maximum points tomorrow and then do the best job I can on Sunday."

A frustrated Verstappen reflected on a challenging day for Red Bull, though the Dutchman is confident of improving over the course of the event.

"For us this track is always going to be difficult," Verstappen said. "We struggled a bit in free practice but recovered quite well so we're happy to be third and I hope for the race we can be a bit closer."

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo sealed fourth and fifth on the sprint race grid for McLaren, while Pierre Gasly followed before the two Ferraris, with Sergio Perez and Antonio Giovinazzi completing the top 10 - Sebastian Vettel failing to make it out of Q2.

 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:19:555
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0:096secs
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0:411secs
Lando Norris (McLaren) +0:434secs
Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0:44secs
Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0:705secs
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0:907secs
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0:955secs
Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1:056secs
Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +1:253secs

George Russell is determined to maintain a positive relationship with Lewis Hamilton as he prepared to join Mercedes "on level terms" with the seven-time world champion.

Such equality will not be reflected in their pay packets yet, but Russell is adamant he is joining the Silver Arrows to race for wins, saying he has "high aspirations" ahead of his close-season switch from Williams.

The 23-year-old will follow Valtteri Bottas in partnering Hamilton in the Mercedes ranks, after the Finn took over the drive from Nico Rosberg.

The rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg was at times a fraught one, which has been the case between many great drivers in motorsport history.

But Russell says that for the sake of Mercedes making progress, it is essential the drivers start on a positive and respectful note, which is where he believes they are at present.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, where he will be driving for Williams, Russell addressed the importance of avoiding friction in a team.

"Yes, I think Mercedes have had clear experience of a sort of poor dynamic within the team and they've made it absolutely clear that they don't want a repeat and I think, on a personal level as well, I don't want that either," Russell said.

"I think it’s important for team-mates to work together, to push the team, and… next year, it's a new car, new regulations, there's no guarantees who is going to have the fastest car so it's our job as drivers to push that forward and I'd say as well, Lewis and I are at very different stages of our career, which I think also helps.

"And I have huge respect for him; being so much younger and looking up to him as a young karting driver changes that dynamic a lot. I don't see there being any issues at all."

Russell, quoted on the official F1 website, signalled that he saw his role at Mercedes not as being the second driver, deferential to the established leader, but as somebody who would receive equal treatment.

He said: “[I'm] definitely going in on level terms and that was made very clear to me.

"I think Mercedes have always been respectful in that regard, giving both the drivers the best opportunity, and obviously, naturally I believe in myself, and I have high aspirations, but equally I know how tough it's going to be.

"I think Lewis and I have got a really great relationship, we're at different stages of our careers, and we've got one goal next year which is to develop the car, push it forward and make sure that we, as two drivers, give ourselves the best chance of having the fastest race car and the only way we're going to do that is by working together to develop that."

The Monza weekend features a sprint race on Saturday to determine grid placings, rather than the familiar qualifying session, and Hamilton will again be going in search of a 100th grand prix victory on Sunday.

He has surprisingly won just one of the last nine grands prix, and the 36-year-old has been deposed again from top spot in the drivers' championship by Max Verstappen.

Next season, perhaps Russell will also be part of the title picture. Hamilton is relishing the arrival of his younger British compatriot.

"I think new fresh blood in our team is going to be great, obviously, because I'm the oldie there!" Hamilton said.

"I think that definitely will energise the whole team, knowing they have a new youngster coming through who's super-hungry, driven and will be pushing the team forwards."

Mercedes confirmed the worst-kept secret in Formula One this week as they announced George Russell will drive for the Silver Arrows.

Russell will take the seat of Valtteri Bottas, who is set to join Alfa Romeo after failing to mount a drivers' championship challenge during his time with Mercedes.

A product of the Mercedes junior driver programme, Russell earned his spot with Mercedes through a series of impressive performances for Williams, while he was also praised for his display filling in for future team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.

But how do Russell and his predecessor compare? Stats Perform looks at the numbers from their respective careers to assess whether Russell can be an upgrade.

Bottas too often the bridesmaid

Bottas has sprayed the post-race champagne plenty of times already this season. He has claimed seven podiums in 2021 but has not been on the top step. Indeed, with six third-place finishes and one second-place, Bottas has collected the most podiums without winning in the campaign so far.

That is reflective of Bottas' career with Mercedes. Unlike the man he succeeded, Nico Rosberg, Bottas has never truly been a threat to Hamilton despite the dominance the team has enjoyed.

The Finn has finished second 29 times in his career, more than any other driver who has failed to win the championship. Only Rubens Barrichello can match him. Since 2017 when he joined Mercedes from Williams, Bottas' total of 45 second and third-places finishes is more than any other driver.

And when he reflects on his Mercedes tenure, Bottas will in part have to look back on a number of missed opportunities. Rene Arnoux (11.1%, 2 of 18) and Nelson Piquet (20.8%, 5 of 24) are the only drivers to in F1 history to claim a lower percentage of victories from pole position than Bottas (29.4%), who has qualified fastest 17 times but gone on to win the race on just five occasions.

 

George growing in stature

While it can be argued Bottas has struggled to get the best out of what has been, for the most part, the clear top car on the grid, Russell has this year taken a Williams car that pales in comparison to what the team produced during their glory years beyond expectations.

Though his second-place at the Belgium Grand Prix was secured in part because the weather meant only two laps could be completed behind the safety car, his reward for a brilliant qualifying performance made him the first Williams driver to claim second since Lance Stroll in 2017.

Russell has elevated Williams from backmarkers to regular residents in the midfield, reaching Q2 of qualifying in 12 of 13 attempts in 2021. He had reached that stage nine times in his previous 37 qualifying appearances.

Even when the Williams car was the worst in the field in 2019, Russell still had the edge over Robert Kubica in qualifying. He qualified ahead of his team-mate in all 21 grands prix, becoming the first rookie driver to achieve that feat.

Bottas had the edge at the Sakhir Grand Prix when Hamilton was absent, beating Russell to pole, but the Brit was only denied victory as a puncture handed the win to Sergio Perez.

If he can avoid such misfortune going forward, Russell's track record with Williams this year indicates he could provide Hamilton with stiff competition in qualifying and on raceday.

George Russell said he is "absolutely buzzing" for next season's Formula One world championship after he agreed a move to Mercedes.

It was confirmed on September 6 that Valtteri Bottas would be ending his Mercedes stint after five seasons with the team, joining Alfa Romeo for 2022 on a multi-year deal.

Bottas has served as the second-seat driver to Lewis Hamilton, helping Mercedes to four constructors' titles.

However, with the Finn now joining Alfa in the wake of Kimi Raikkonen's impending retirement, Mercedes have signed up Hamilton's fellow Briton Russell from Williams.

"Looking ahead to next season, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't absolutely buzzing," Russell said in a statement released by Mercedes.

"It's a huge opportunity and one I want to grab with both hands. But I'm under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge; it's going to be a steep learning curve.

"For now, though, I have nine more races as a Williams driver, and I want to make sure they are the best nine of my time with the team.

"Then, and only then, can I turn my attention to 2022."

The 23-year-old, who has signed a long-term contract with Mercedes, has spent the last three seasons with Williams and has achieved one podium finish in his Formula One career to date.

However, that came in contentious circumstances at this season's Belgian Grand Prix as Russell was awarded second after only two laps had been completed in sodden conditions.

When Hamilton returned a positive positive coronavirus test before the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Russell stepped in to replace him, finishing ninth.

Russell revealed he is excited to become a team-mate of Hamilton's.

"I've looked up to Lewis since I was in go-karts," Russell said of the seven-time F1 champion.

"The opportunity to learn from someone who has become a role model both on and off the track can only benefit me as a driver, a professional, and a human being."

 

Russell was on the Mercedes young driver programme in 2017 and won that season's GP3 Series championship before he became Formula Two champion the following year.

Mercedes team principal Toto Woolf claimed Russell and Hamilton will provide a formidable team over the next few seasons.

"We are very happy to confirm that George will have the opportunity to take the next step in his career and join Mercedes," Woolf added.

"He has been a winner in every racing category – and the past three seasons with Williams have given us a taste of what the future could hold for him in F1.

"Now, it is our challenge together to help him continue learning within our environment and alongside Lewis, the greatest F1 driver of all time.

"I am confident that as their relationship grows, they will form a strong team and deliver for Mercedes on and off the track in the years to come.

"It's a weight off our shoulders to have our plans for 2022 clear and announced."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.