Hamilton predicts ‘easy’ Italian GP win for Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton expects title rival Max Verstappen to score a routine victory at the Italian Grand Prix.

Verstappen will start the race from first of the grid after sprint qualifying winner Valtteri Bottas serves a grid penalty for an engine change made by Mercedes on Friday.

Hamilton had been hoping to seize the initiative in the sprint race from second on the grid but made a slow start – he will start from fourth on Sunday.

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The result of the sprint race also meant Verstappen gained two points over Hamilton in the title fight, extending his lead to five.

With the McLaren’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris between him and Verstappen, Hamilton does not fancy his chances of fighting on track with the Red Bull driver on Sunday.

“You saw the pace of the Red Bull,” Hamilton told Sky Sports. “I don’t know if he was faster than Valtteri but now he’s on pole, so it should an easy win for him.

“For me, I’ve just got to try and get past these McLarens”.

On Red Bull’s pace at Monza, he added: “I think they have got more pace than they’ve had all year.

“They bring upgrades every week. From what I’m told, there’s only one race where they haven’t brought an upgrade, so they are constantly bringing performance to the car and they’ve done a great job. But well done to Valtteri today [for winning the sprint].”

After his slow start, Hamilton spent the sprint race behind Norris. The McLaren drivers both had the soft tyres, while Red Bull and Mercedes fitted the medium tyres to the car, which should have been an advantage later in the race when the soft tyre started to drop off performance-wise.

“I think we underestimated how well they [soft tyres] would behave,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to try and figure out how to get by the McLarens tomorrow and try to limit the damage.”

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