Lewis Hamilton is predicting an easy win for arch-rival Max Verstappen in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, which the Mercedes driver will start in fourth place, right behind a barrage of McLaren cars.

A botched start in Saturday’s sprint qualifying put Hamilton on the back foot from the outset while teammate and poleman Valtteri Bottas took command of proceedings and bever looked back.

The Finn crossed the finish line ahead of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, while Hamilton never found away around fourth-place man Lando Norris.

However, Bottas’ demotion to the back of the grid for an engine change will see Hamilton line up P4 on Sunday’s. But that’s not good enough for the reigning world champion to feel confident about fighting for a race that seemed promised to Mercedes ahead of the weekend.

    2021 Italian Grand Prix – Sprint Qualifying results

“We lost a lot of points,” Hamilton told Sky F1, noting McLaren’s productive choice of using the soft tyre while Mercedes opted for the medium rubber.

“We underestimated how well they will behave. I’ve got to try and figure out how I can get by the McLarens tomorrow and try to limit the damage.”

A downbeat Hamilton conceded that tomorrow’s race would be Verstappen’s to lose.

“You saw the pace of the Red Bull,” he added. “I don’t know if he was faster than Valtteri but now he’s on pole, so it should be an easy win for him.

“Me, I’ve just got to try and get past these McLarens.”

Hamilton reckoned that Red Bull’s relentless implementation of updates is paying off for the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

“I think they’ve got more pace than we [expected] all year,” said the Briton. “They bring upgrades every week.

“From what I’m told there’s only one race they haven’t brought an upgrade. They’re constantly adding performance to the car. They did a great job but well done to Valtteri today.”

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