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Verstappen expected to be further behind in Italian GP qualifying

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Max Verstappen felt pleased with his performance in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix despite finishing seventh and over 1.2 seconds off Lewis Hamilton’s pole time.

Verstappen and Red Bull arrived in Italy braced for a tough weekend, with the high-speed nature of the Monza circuit playing against the strengths of the RB12 car.

Teammate Daniel Ricciardo led Red Bull’s charge in Saturday’s qualifying session, finishing sixth as both Mercedes and Ferrari drivers pulled clear.

Both Red Bull drivers were also beaten by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who nailed his final Q3 lap to finish the session fifth-fastest.

Despite dropping to P7, Verstappen remained pleased with his display, saying he expected the gap to the other drivers to be bigger.

“I’m not disappointed at all. We always knew that this is a hard track for us, I think the worst of the season,” Verstappen told NBCSN.

“To be actually that close to them is not bad. I expected to be much further behind, but I think in the end we managed to have quite a good car in qualifying to find the right compromise.

“Not bad, we were close to fifth.”

Ricciardo set his sights on beating Bottas in Sunday’s race and finishing behind the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers, before having his interview cut short by a wasp.

The Italian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.