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Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Verstappen restores order denies McLaren duo

Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Verstappen restores order denies McLaren duo

Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Verstappen restores order denies McLaren duo

Max Verstappen delivered a masterful qualifying performance, to take pole at Imola, his seventh consecutive pole position in the 2024 Formula 1 season, denying McLaren due Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.

As Christian Horner said over the team radio, it was a “hard earned” pole of Verstappen who struggled up to that point of the weekend, not happy with the grip of his RB20.

But in the end, Verstappen delivered when it mattered, thus retaining his grip over pole positions so far in the 2024 F1 season. Seven in a row in 2024, eight since the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP.

It was a bitter sweet result for Red Bull as Sergio Perez was knocked out from Q2, having started qualifying on the back foot after crashing in the dying moments of the final free practice earlier.

The same cannot be said for McLaren and Ferrari, the latter in particular flattering to deceive having appeared to be the favorites since the minute the upgraded SF-24 ran in anger around Imola.

McLaren beat Ferrari in the end as Oscar Piastri was second fastest behind Verstappen, with Norris third fastest with less than one tenth separating the top three.

However Piastri has an appointment with the stewards after the session as he is under threat of getting a penalty for possible impeding of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

As for the Tifosi, they had to settle with fourth for Charles Leclerc and fifth for Carlos Sainz, after so much hope since the start of the Imola weekend, but the Reds failed to deliver at crunch time.

Verstappen: Pole a nice memory to Ayrton Senna

After taking his 39th career pole position, Verstappen said: “A difficult weekend so far, even this morning. Incredibly happy to be on pole here. I didn’t expect that.

“We made some final changes before Qualifying and they seemed to make it feel better. I could push harder. This track is unbelievable.

“To be on the limit here in Qualifying, close to the gravel, I touched the gravel in the last corner. The adrenaline is very, very high,” he pointed out.

Verstappen’s achievement means he is now level with Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna’s tally of pole position, a feat he managed on the very same track the late triple F1 Champion tragically lost his life thirty years ago.

Reflecting, Verstappen said: “It’s a great start to the year and very special. It’s 30 years since he passed away, so very pleased to get pole and in a way it’s a nice memory to him.

“He was an incredible F1 driver, especially in Qualifying. A great day for him, a great day for the team. I’m very, very happy,” he concluded.

Second placed Piastri added: “It was pretty good, a little bit of a scruffy last corner but here it’s so, so difficult to do a perfect lap.

“So really happy. I’ve been really comfortable with the car from the moment we put it on track yesterday. So, so close to pole, but very happy. It’s been a little while since I’ve been back up here.

“We’ll see what we can do (tomorrow),” he said of Sunday’s race. “I think we’ve definitely been on the pace all weekend. You can never count out Max and Red Bull of course, like we’ve just seen, but I think the confidence is high.

“Of course it’s not the easiest track to overtake on, but the confidence is high that we can do something good,” the young Aussie concluded.

As for Norris, he reflected: “P3 is not a bad job at all. Within a tenth both of us for P1. Tiny margins but for us as a team we have had a great weekend.

“Oscar did a great job and so did Max. Exciting. I can’t wait for tomorrow, he added. “We are getting closer. To be ahead of Ferrari is also a nice result for us. It’s going to be close, it’s going to be a good race tomorrow.

“Hopefully it’s an exciting one. Tough, especially when the lap times are so tight. A lot of it is down to Lap One, strategy and the pit stops. It’s going to be a tough race,” the Briton concluded.

Q3: Verstappen delivers when it mattered

The final stage of qualifying and ten drivers went into it with at least five drivers having the chance to take pole: Leclerc, Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, and Sainz.

With the first run of laps in, Verstappen was on provisional pole, with Norris less than a tenth behind in second as Leclerc was third, 0.147s off the pace.

Piastri was fourth fastest ahead of Sainz in fifth as George Russell was sixth, Tsunoda was seventh, Lewis Hamilton eighth, while Nico Hulkenberg was ninth.

Daniel Ricciardo did not take part in the first run and opted for one flying lap. He was tenth with no time set.

The Ferraris were the first out for the final runs, Leclerc leading, as the Mercedes duo then Verstappen followed. The McLarens were further behind.

And the one who has got the special lap up his sleeve in the end was Verstappen who made an incredible comeback to take pole in one of the most thrilling and close qualifying tussles this season.

Verstappen’s pole time was a 1:14.746, only 0.074s ahead of Piastri in second and 0.091s better than Norris in third.

Leclerc was over tenths off the pace, fourth fastest, and 0.263s ahead of Sainz, fifth in the sister Ferrari.

Russell outqualified Hamilton and will start the Emilia Romagna GP from sixth on the grid, ahead of a superb Tsunoda who was seventh.

Hamilton was eighth fastest in the second Mercedes, 0.758s off pole and 0.170s ahead of Ricciardo, ninth fastest on a decent Saturday for the VCARBS.

Hulkenberg was tenth fastest in the Haas.

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Q2: Sergio Perez is knocked out

The Mercedes drivers were the first drivers out there starting the action in Q2, while Verstappen followed as others took their time.

The first timed laps yielded the following top ten: Leclerc – Tsunoda – Verstappen – Piastri – Norris – Sainz – Perez – Ricciardo – Hulkenberg – Hamilton.

It was an impressive first Q2 run by Tsunoda, while Norris’ lap was scruffy one, and with the projected knock-out time being a 1:15.8s, any driver from seventh and below was not safe. Tsunoda stayed in the garage.

With less than four minutes remaining, the second and final runs to establish the top ten pack began, and with the dust settled, Verstappen was the fastest with a 1:15.176.

Leclerc was second fastest, 0.152s off Verstappen’s time with Tsunoda’s time holding for third. Norris and Piastri were fourth and fifth.

The shock of the session was Sergio Perez missing out on the top ten shootout, missing the cut by 0.015s to Ricciardo. The Mexican will start the race from 11th.

Esteban Ocon was 12th in the Alpine 0.200s behind Perez and 0.086s ahead of Lance Stroll, the Canadian 13th fastest in the Aston Martin.

Alex Albon’s qualifying trip ended in Q2, as he was 14th fastest in the Williams and 0.181s ahead of Pierre Gasly who was 15th in the second Alpine.

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Q1: Fernando Alonso is out

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Compared to FP2 on Friday, track temperatures were higher as drivers were getting buckled up in their cars at the start of Q1. The tarmac was 43 degrees Celsius, while air temperature was 24 degrees.

Q1 was always going to be interesting given the infamous traffic with 20 cars trying to make the cut into Q2.

Fernando Alonso who crashed his Aston Martin in FP3 was sat in his car, as work continued with drivers already on track.

The Ferrari drivers as well as Russell in the Mercedes set out on the Mediums, but the latter soon returns back to the pitlane without setting any time.

With Q1 underway and with 12 minutes remaining, Alonso finally joins the action, as Albon has a moment at Turn 18, hard on the kerbs and over the gravel. He keeps going though.

Logan Sargeant brought out a brief Yellow flag having gone off track and into the gravel, but keeps going, while Alonso also had an off-road moment of his own at the Villeneuve chicane.

Ahead of the final runs, the order of the top 15 was: Norris – Piastri – Verstappen – Sainz – Gasly – Leclerc – Russell – Tsunoda – Perez – Stroll – Ocon – Hamilton – Bottas – Ricciardo – Magnussen.

With less than three minutes on the clock, the final runs were on and in the end it was Verstappen who lead the way with a 1:15.762, 0.061s ahead of Leclerc who qualified on Mediums. Hulkenberg was third!!

Valtteri Bottas was the first driver to lose out on a Q2 slot, missing out to Hamilton by 0.022s the latter just making it into the second phase.

Sargeant was 17th fastest, 0.105s behind Bottas and 0.103s ahead of Zhou Guanyu in 18th as Magnussen was 19th.

Alonso was 20th and out of qualifying, the Spaniard not finding his rhythm.

Piastri was under investigation for blocking Magnussen at Tamburello. Not something nice to weigh in the Aussie’s mind as he goes through Q2 and Q3.

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