The F1 Sprint returns this weekend for its intriguing second running and after the apparent success of the Silverstone edition, many will be keen to see how the second instalment of this qualification process pans out. The first time we saw this mini-race take place, there was huge excitement given it was a completely new spectacle in the sport, but now we will see the ‘difficult’ second album.
This will be the second of three F1 Sprints this season and the first did shake up both the qualification process and the race itself so with any luck, we should see more of the same at Monza. At Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton qualified fastest but it was title rival Max Verstappen who won the Sprint, and took home the extra three points on offer, however it was Hamilton who secured the race win after colliding with Verstappen on a hugely dramatic opening lap.
If drama like that returns this weekend because of the Sprint, then we could be demanding more of them throughout the season rather than criticising the format. Although they had a disappointing weekend overall, Red Bull certainly got the better of Mercedes in that first Sprint and they could be the beneficiaries once again of the mini-race, although this is not a track that has suited them historically in the past.
They’ve only been on the podium in one of the last seven races here while Mercedes, who announced Valterri Bottas would be replaced by George Russell in 2022 this week, had won every Grand Prix of the hybrid era before Charles Leclerc won in 2019 and Pierre Gasly won in 2020.
So the Sprint could well shake things up, and as the pressure ramps up on the two title rivals, with just three points between them, it seems they have both been attempting to play mind games and make the other the favourite this weekend.
Verstappen, having retaken the title lead on home soil said: “I expect Monza to suit Mercedes as it hasn't been our best track for the last few years, but this year we are more competitive so you never know.
"If we continue what we have been doing, working well together as a team, and nail every little detail then we can be competitive but Mercedes might have a top speed advantage on us."
Meanwhile seven-time champion Hamilton, who has been here many times before, believes Red Bull should be considered favourites this weekend. "I think they've taken a bit of a step ahead," Hamilton said after Verstappen’s latest win, citing the latest upgrades on the Red Bull car.
No matter who is coming out on top in the mind games, this race would have been a tight one in normal conditions, but with the F1 Sprint has been thrown into the mix as well, this weekend certainly is not to be missed.
Verstappen and Hamilton are both 11/10 to emerge victorious in the F1 Sprint and are also the same odds to win the main event on Sunday with Betfred.