Max Verstappen has written off Lewis Hamilton and George Russell’s chances of competing for victory at the Italian Grand Prix. The Dutchman also suggested Lando Norris was unlikely to challenge for the win despite starting from second.
Verstappen is expected to start the race from P7 after being hit with a five-place grid penalty ahead of the weekend. It means Russell and Norris will start ahead of Verstappen and could block Red Bull’s bid to close up on pole-sitter Charles Leclerc.
Verstappen was asked whether he was worried about losing time to Mercedes and McLaren in the opening stages of tomorrow’s race.
The Red Bull driver replied: “They were quite far off in qualifying so I am not really expecting them to be a big threat but I am hoping it is not going to become a DRS train because then it becomes really difficult for me to pass them. Let’s see tomorrow, I hope of course nothing happens in lap one and then if we have good race pace, anything is possible.”
Russell is expected to start the race from the front row after penalties for Verstappen, Hamilton, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez. But, Mercedes were a massive 1.3 seconds slower than Charles Leclerc, who stormed to pole.
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The Silver Arrows were 1.2 seconds slower than Verstappen in a backwards step for the team. Hamilton admitted his outfit were off the space and predicted the race would be “tough”.
Russell also stressed Mercedes had “no chance” to compete with Verstappen as he claimed the Dutchman would pass within a handful of laps. He explained: “I would like to think we could fight with Charles and to fight with Max I think there is no chance, they are far quicker than us.
Verstappen could secure his fifth consecutive victory for the first time in his career. The Dutchman could also pick up his 11th win of the season but he has never won the Italian Grand Prix.
After the session, Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitted the team had compromised some qualifying pace with an eye to tomorrow’s race. Verstappen confirmed the car was likely to be stronger over long runs in a massive warning to Ferrari.
He said: “I think our car was good again, we chose to run a little more downforce than other teams. Maybe over one lap it isn’t the right strategy but I always felt really comfortable on the long runs so I am hoping tomorrow when it is even warmer and tyre deg comes into play that it will be a good one for us.”