Verstappen finished second behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in F1's second-ever sprint qualifying race at Monza but inherits pole with the Finn set to drop to the back of the grid after taking a penalty for moving onto a fresh power unit.

The result means Verstappen has extended his title lead over Hamilton to five points after his main championship rival could only finish fifth after being shuffled down the order following a poor start.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has predicted Verstappen will score an “easy” victory with the McLaren pair separating the two title protagonists on the grid, but the Dutchman still remains wary of the pace of the Mercedes drivers.

“It was a good day for us, good start and from there onwards I tried to follow Valtteri around even though in general we lacked a little bit of pace to really mount a challenge but I tried to stay in the tow a bit,” Verstappen said.

“From our side it was good, two points scored and starting first tomorrow, so I don’t expect it to be a straightforward and easy race, Valtteri coming from the back, Lewis P4 they have a lot of pace, so we’ll see what we can do against them.”

Verstappen said he never felt he would have the chance to mount an attack on Bottas for the lead.

“Valtteri was a bit up the road after one or two laps, but I never really felt like an overtake was on,” he explained.

“Just tried to stay close and see where we can improve with the package, how their car runs over kerbs, cornering speeds and stuff. All these kinds of things.

"But yeah I also knew of course even if I stayed second I start first tomorrow.”

Asked how crucial starting from pole will be, Verstappen replied: "If you get cleanly through Turn 1 and Turn 2 it’s very good.

“It’s still a decent run to Turn 1 but if you have a good start it should be enough to defend, let’s see tomorrow.”