Bottas and Hamilton: 'Every point counts' this weekend

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates being fastest in qualifying parc ferme. 10.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Monza
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Both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton are keenly aware how important it is to maximise every point possible this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix.

The pair dominated Friday's qualifying session at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza and delivered a Mercedes front row lock-out, with the Finn emerging top of the timesheets.

That gives him a chance of picking up the three points on offer for winning Saturday's sprint race.

"That qualifying lap was nice,โ€ he said in parc ferme after the end of the session. โ€œIt feels so good when you get a nice lap.

โ€œI managed to save it to the end. Happy to finally get a tow, so it was good fun and I enjoyed it," he added.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates being fastest in qualifying in parc ferme with team mate Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 10.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Monza

The Finn confirmed at the start of the week that he would be leaving Mercedes at the end of the season and head to Alfa Romeo, but such distractions are far from his mind at this point.

"For now Iโ€™m focused on tomorrowโ€™s sprint race," he insisted. โ€œIโ€™m starting from the front, expecting to get maximum points tomorrow and then do the best job we can on Sunday.

โ€œI feel good, I feel relaxed, everything is sorted for the future and Iโ€™m obviously very pleased for the team today and the car is feeling so good,โ€

Unfortunately his prospects for the Grand Prix itself are less positive, after the team opted to incur grid penalties by stocking up on a raft of new power unit components.

Meanwhile his team mate knows that Monza is just the sort of circuit where Mercedes traditionally have an advantage over their Red Bull rivals, making it a crucial weekend in the championship campaign.

"There's been a lot of points lost this year on both sides, so every point counts," said Hamilton, who vividly recalls losing the title in his rookie season in 2007 by exactly one point.

"We've lost the championship by one point [in the past]," he noted. "The sprint races definitely can help, so we have to try and capitalise on that."

Hamilton had looked on course to take the top spot for the start of tomorrow's sprint race, only to lose out to his team mate by just 0.096s on the final run when he was obliged to help Bottas out with a slipstream.

"Congratulations to Valtteri as he did a mega lap," Hamilton said. "It was looking pretty good for us on my side up until the end.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates being fastest in qualifying parc ferme with the Pirelli Speed King Award. 10.09.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Monza

"He just went quicker, I couldn't match it, so it was well deserved."

Despite Mercedes' success in qualifying, team principal Toto Wolff sounded a note of caution and warned that Red Bull hadn't shown its full hand yet.

"I'm quite satisfied, but seems we've only seen one lap with the engines turned up with Perez quite early in the session," he told Sky Sports F1. "They have about three-tenths left with the engine, but we have a tyre difference."

Wolff was asked if the team was prepared to bring team orders into play this weekend to help Hamilton's title campaign.

โ€œItโ€™s difficult generally when you have to call team orders,โ€ he replied. โ€œAll of us are racers and we donโ€™t want to see that.

โ€œHe should be where he is on merit," he said of Bottas' chances of winning tomorrow's sprint. "But in any case, Valtteri is going anyway all the way to the back on Sunday.

โ€œWe need to see how the start pans out because there is not too much to discuss, just be careful in the first corner and then see where they are.โ€

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