George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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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.
“There was plenty in it, it was close between us all but Valtteri did a great job right at the end.
“Not the best of qualifying [sessions] for me, P1 was really good, and for whatever reason, I just struggled in this session, but anyways.
Still on the front row, and it’s good to have a front-row lockout for the team, particularly with the news last week, it was great to see Valtteri do so well.
“Don’t know where they [Red Bull] pulled out their pace, but it’s going to be close.”
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.
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 free practice but I think we recovered quite well throughout 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.
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