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.