Max Verstappen will be gunning for a record 10th straight Grand Prix win but faces stiff competition from Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc at the Italian GP.
The race itself is set to get underway at 11pm (AEST), with Sainz starting in pole position after squeaking past Verstappen by 0.013 seconds after a thrilling qualifying.
Leclerc, meanwhile, took third and will start in the second row alongside Mercedes driver George Russell.
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Speaking ahead of Sunday’s race Sainz said both he and Leclerc know they are “in a great position to target the win” but will also be smart in their approach.
“We are focused on the race. We are in a great position to target the win,” Sainz told Sky Sports.
“But at the same time we are realistic. We know Red Bull has the quicker race pace and the quicker car. I am optimistic, I am positive about today and I am going to give it everything today to get a win in front of the tifosi.”
It has been an impressive weekend for Ferrari and Sainz, who topped the times in two practice sessions before taking pole in the final moments of qualifying.
Verstappen will be shooting for history on Sunday, having already equalled four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine-straight GP wins at last weekend’s race.
Even with Sainz starting on pole Verstappen will still enter Sunday as the heavy favourite to claim his 12th win of the season given Red Bull’s consistent speed and overall performance.
Sky Sports F1’s expert Nico Rosberg tipped a “thrilling” start to Sunday’s race.
ANALYSIS: Why Sainz can — and can’t — beat Verstappen to victory
“It’s been a rough patch for them and it wasn’t expected they would be on pole, it came as a surprise,” he said.
“It makes it all the more exciting because they now have the chance to win their home race.
“They have two cars in the top three, so can also play some strategy games against the most likely faster Max Verstappen.
“So that gives them an extra chance, so we are in for a thrilling one I think, especially at the start.”
Williams driver Alex Albon, coming off a P4 finish at last weekend’s qualifying, finished sixth fastest at Monza but the 27-year-old has a major concern ahead of Sunday’s race.
“I feel like in Q2, we did a really good Q2 run one, and maybe it wasn’t necessary to put that second set of mediums on because now we don’t have any new tyres for tomorrow,” he said.
“So, it’s going to be really interesting to see who’s saved a new set or not – that will make a big difference in the race tomorrow.
“So, we’re at a slight disadvantage, but we’re not really racing those cars in the front; our race tomorrow is with the McLarens and Fernando [Alonso], so let’s see.”
Speaking of McLaren, Lando Norris will start from the fifth row while Australian Oscar Piastri qualified seventh fastest just ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
“We are missing a bit to really challenge the front but we were quite aware of that before we came,” Piastri said.
“We know we are not very quick on the straights, but we will try our best to score some points.”
GRID FOR THE ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
Front row: Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull)
2nd row: Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) George Russell (GBR/Mercedes)
3rd row: Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull) Alexander Albon (THA/Williams-Mercedes)
4th row: Oscar Piastri (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)
5th row: Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) Fernando Alonso (ESP/Aston Martin-Mercedes)
6th row: Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Red Bull) Liam Lawson (NZL/AlphaTauri-Red Bull)
7th row: Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Haas-Ferrari) Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)
8th row: Logan Sargeant (USA/Williams-Mercedes) Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)
9th row: Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpine-Renault) Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault)
10th row: Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes)
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