George Russell makes Max Verstappen prediction ahead of Italian GP

Italian Grand Prix: Preview lap of Formula One track

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George Russell has predicted Max Verstappen will be leading the Italian Grand Prix within handful of laps despite being hit with a grid penalty.  Russell said the reigning champion would be “slicing” through the field as he made clear the Red Bull had a  massive pace advantage over their rivals. 

Verstappen will likely start the race from P7 despite qualifying second after taking a grid penalty for changing his power-unit. It comes after the former Williams correctly predicted the Red Bull driver would be in the top-five after a handful of laps at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Russell said: “I don’t really understand how all the penalties to be honest but we’re not too focused on him because it doesn’t matter what he does and what they do, they’ll finish ahead of us ultimately.

“He will probably be in the lead after 25 laps maybe. I dont think it’s quite as easy to overtake here as it was in Spa. but the pace they’ve got they will be slicing through.”

Russell qualified down in P6 but will be promoted after penalties for Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton.  Mercedes were always likely to struggle at Monza due to its low downforce dynamics.

The Silver Arrows struggled at the last low-downforce circuit at Spa-Francorchamps two weeks ago. However, Russell suggested the German manufacturer may still have the pace to secure a top-three finish tomorrow.

He said: “I’d like to think we can fight with Charles, I think fighting with Max will be no chance, they’re far quicker than us. Trying to stay ahead of Checo and Carlos who are coming from the back of the field. 

“The podium has got to be the minimum for us. I hope we can have a clean start and at least put up a bit of a fight.”

Russell has now picked up three podiums in the last four races with six top-three finishes to his name so far. The new Mercedes star picked up his best result of the year at the Dutch Grand Prix last weekend, crossing the line in second. 

However, he has urged his team to focus on themselves after confusion at Zandvoort cost Hamilton a chance at battling Verstappen for the win. Russell added: Yeah, no doubt I thought we’d be closer. The session just ran away from us. I thought we would be three to seven tenths behind Ferrari but to end up where we did was a bit shocking. 

“I’m glad that Lando [Norris] or Fernando [Alonso] didn’t jump us because that was the fight for second on the grid tomorrow. 

“I’m not too disappointed but for our overall learning, it’s a bit of a shame that we were so far off the pace. We need to focus on ourselves. We’ve seen that when we’re trying to fight with cars that are faster than us, we end up compromising our results.”

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