Lewis Hamilton wary of Italian GP challenge standing in his way of Max Verstappen battle

Lewis Hamilton has an extra challenge tomorrow in the shape of two McLaren’s after struggling to make up places due to a poor start in sprint qualifying ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas started from pole position, with the Briton lining up second with championship leader Max Verstappen in third.

But the Briton had a disastrous start off the line which left the door open for Verstappen and the two McLaren’s to sweep past the seven-time world champion heading into turn one.

Despite a win for Bottas, the Finn will start from the back of the grid due to engine penalties, with Verstappen inheriting pole position for Sunday’s main event.

When asked by Sky Sports F1 how the 36-year-old reflected on the start, a deflated Hamilton responded: “I don’t, wasn’t that great and it is what it is.

“[The launch] is where it all started, we lost a lot of points.

“We underestimated how well [the soft tyres] would behave, anyways, we’ve got to try and figure out how I can get past the McLaren’s tomorrow and try to limit the damage.”

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Due to the nature of the sprint qualifying format, all drivers, including those who qualified in the top 10, will have a free choice of tyres for the start of the race.

Yet, Hamilton’s confidence seemed to be fleeting ever so slightly, admitting it should be an “easy win” for the championship leader Verstappen.

“You saw the pace of the Red Bull, I don’t know if he was quicker than Valtteri, they’re so fast and now he’s on pole so it should be an easy win for him, me – I’ve just got to try and get past these two guys.

“I think they’ve [McLaren] got more pace and you think they’ve had all year they bring upgrades every week, I think, from what I’m told there’s only one race that they haven’t bought an upgrade.

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“I mean, we’re a good start so we got up to second and we have we scored some nice little points and of course starting on pole for tomorrow.

“Nevertheless, I mean they [Mercedes] still seem very quick but I was giving it all you know to try and stay close so it’s gonna be an interesting battle tomorrow.”

McLaren finished ahead of Hamilton, being promoted to second and third on the grid ahead of Sunday’s race, splitting the two title protagonists.

Verstappen now leads the way by five points heading into the main event on Sunday.

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