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Italian GP on Sky Sports F1: Sprint returns as Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton battle heads to Monza

Three days of competitive action at Monza lies ahead this weekend as F1 Sprint format makes its second appearance; watch it all live on Sky Sports F1 - qualifying on Friday at 5pm, Sprint on Saturday at 3.30pm, and the Italian GP on Sunday at 2pm

Formula 1's fastest track. Passionate fans. An epic title battle. And the return of the F1 Sprint! It's time for the Italian GP, with a twist, this weekend as the 2021 season speeds onto historic Monza.

After a bumper week in the driver market - with George Russell confirmed at Mercedes for 2022 and Valtteri Bottas heading to Alfa Romeo - it's time to focus on the on-track drama, with an enthralling weekend in store.

All live on Sky Sports F1, there will be fast, competitive action on all three days at Monza's 'Temple of Speed' as the F1 Sprint format returns on Saturday after its feisty Silverstone debut.

Qualifying moves to Friday, setting the grid for the 100km sprint - effectively a mini race - with the finishing order of that dictating the starting order for Sunday's showpiece event, the 53-lap Italian GP.

  • Qualifying is live on Friday at 5pm, with build-up from 4.20pm
  • The F1 Sprint is live on Saturday at 3.30pm, with build-up from 2.25pm
  • The Italian GP is live on Sunday at 2pm, with build-up from 12.30pm

There's also a change to the practice schedule, with only two one-hour sessions - one before qualifying on Friday and one before the F1 Sprint on Saturday.

Last time the new-for-2021 format made an appearance, Lewis Hamilton topped qualifying, Max Verstappen won the sprint, and the championship rivals then dramatically came together on the first lap of the British GP.

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Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft believes George Russell is the real deal and can win the World Championship at Mercedes after joining the team on a long-term contract.

With Verstappen holding just a three-point title lead over Hamilton heading to Monza, there could not be more riding on this weekend.

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It's also a hugely important event for Ferrari as F1's most successful and historic team return to home turf, where they will be greeted by the return of the Tifosi, their famous sea of red in the grandstands.

Will Mercedes have the edge over Red Bull at Monza?

As evidenced by last year, when Pierre Gasly took an unlikely victory for AlphaTauri, anything can happen at Monza. But what Red Bull feel is a certainty for this year's event is that Mercedes are favourites, despite Verstappen resuming the season with back-to-back poles and wins after the summer break.

That's because the team feel Mercedes have an engine advantage, and - as is clear from its nickname - this particular circuit is all about speed.

Sky Sports F1's live Italian GP schedule as F1 Sprint returns

Date and show On Air Session start
Practice One 1pm 1.30pm
Qualifying 4.20pm 5pm
Practice Two 10.30am 11am
F1 Sprint 2.25pm 3.30pm
The Italian GP 12.30pm 2pm

Mercedes had also won every Italian GP of the hybrid era before Charles Leclerc won in 2019 and Gasly in 2020, while Red Bull have only finished on the podium in one of the last seven races.

"I expect Monza to suit Mercedes as it hasn't been our best track for the last few years," said Verstappen, who took the title lead at Zandvoort. "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."

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Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg debate whether Mercedes got their strategy calls wrong in their effort to get Lewis Hamilton past Max Verstappen.

Hamilton, however, feels it is Red Bull who has the speed.

"I think they've taken a bit of a step ahead," said Hamilton last weekend, referencing Red Bull's new upgrades.

With so little to choose between the title-challenging teams and drivers, another crucial weekend awaits.

Sky Sports F1's live Italian GP schedule

9.15am: F2 Feature Race Live
12.30pm: Italian GP Grand Prix Sunday Live
4pm: Chequered Flag: Italy Live
5pm: Ted's Notebook
6pm: Italian GP Highlights

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