Red Bull driver Max Verstappen narrowly lost out on the top spot in today's qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix to Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.
But even if he'd been fastest in the final round, Verstappen wouldn't have been starting from pole in tomorrow's race due to having incurred a five place grid penalty for taking new engine component this weekend.
On first look that means he will drop from P2 to P7 on the grid, but with so many other drivers near the front also being hit by penalties it's currently not clear exactly what will be the outcome. It could be as high as fourth.
But even if it is the worst case scenario, Verstappen is confident that he can still recover in the race and challenge Leclerc for victory, at a venue where he's never finished on the podium before.
“With what I’ve seen from the long runs, it looks good from our side," he insisted after the end of qualifying. "I just need to have a clean lap 1, clear the cars in between us quite quickly, and I think we still have a good chance."
Although his final lap in Q3 was 0.145s behind Leclerc's pole time of 1:20.161s, Verstappen was still happy with the outcome and reckoned that he had the edge on his rival.
“I think the lap was pretty decent," he said. "Just the first sector, we seemed to be a little bit slow, and probably [lacking] a bit of straight-line speed. A a bit of the first chicane, not finding the right grip. But I think overall the rest of the lap felt pretty strong.
He added that Red Bull had opted for slightly higher downforce in order to make it more competitive in the race, to win back those lost grid positions when the lights go out.
“We chose of course the downforce levels, a bit higher compared to some other cars, but it felt alright," he confirmed. "It should normally be better for tyre deg, and hopefully we can show that tomorrow.”
"And of course around here, qualifying to race can always feel a bit different," he added. "My race runs, they felt really good, so very happy with that pace. I’m actually really looking forward to the race tomorrow.
Meanwhile Verstappen's team mate Sergio Perez was fourth in qualifying, but a ten place grid penalty of his own will drop him to 13th (probably!) when the paperwork is all sorted out.
Asked how he expected to fare against Ferrari at their home track tomorrow, Perez acknowledged: "We knew certainly they were going to be very fast around here. It’s not much of a surprise.
"I think in the race they will also be strong, so they will be hard to beat – especially where we’re going to be starting.
“But I think in the race it’s a lot closer and hopefully we are able to have a good management of our strategy and be in the mix tomorrow.”