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Formula 1

Verstappen defeats McLarens for record-tying Imola F1 pole

by Josh Suttill
3 min read

Max Verstappen and Red Bull bounced back from a troublesome start to Formula 1's Imola weekend to edge the McLaren drivers to pole position in a closely-fought qualifying session.

It meant the Dutchman has equalled the late Ayrton Senna's record for most consecutive F1 pole positions at eight - with the chance to break it next time out at Monaco.

Having struggled on Friday at Imola with an uncompliant RB20, intense overnight work and pre-qualifying tweaks paid dividends for Red Bull on Verstappen's side of the garage at least.

But even with a happier balance, the Ferraris and McLarens looked like a genuine pole threat throughout qualifying.

Verstappen topped Q3 after the opening runs, a 1m14.869s that was just 0.073s faster than Miami GP winner Lando Norris and 0.147s quicker than the lead Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

And with his final flier, he pushed the bar just out of reach of his rivals, improving to a 1m14.746s.

That was 0.074s faster than Oscar Piastri - who just pipped his McLaren team-mate Norris to a place on the front row by just 0.017s.

Piastri would've had provisional pole had he matched Norris in the final sector - but his place on the front row is under threat though as he faces a post-session investigation for allegedly impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1.

The Ferraris' pole challenge badly fell away on the final run with Leclerc ending up over two tenths short in fourth, and Carlos Sainz nearly half a second behind Verstappen.

Russell best of the rest

George Russell was the best of the rest behind Verstappen-McLaren-Ferrari and he even came just 0.001s away from nicking fifth place on the grid from Sainz.

RB's Yuki Tsunoda was seventh ahead of Lewis Hamilton and two tenths ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo - who had been much further adrift than that from Tsunoda for much of qualifying.

Sauber-bound Nico Hulkenberg once again dragged his Haas into Q3 and completed the top 10.

Perez out in Q2

The big-name causality in Q2 was the Red Bull of Sergio Perez - who crashed his Red Bull at the end of FP3. Perez was 0.015s slower than 10th-place Ricciardo in that second segment.

"What a mess" was the immediate verdict from Perez to his race engineer.

Esteban Ocon earned his best qualifying of 2024 by taking 12th on the grid while his Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly had a frustrating day.

Having already been miffed with his team in FP3 for not finding him clear track ("Why! We are always in the same situation") he had a moment at Rivazza 1 on his final qualifying lap while distracted by Sainz's Ferrari: "Gutted I missed the braking point".

That left him 15th - with Lance Stroll's Aston Martin and Alex Albon's Williams splitting the two Alpines in 13th and 14th respectively.

Alonso's nightmare day

Fernando Alonso suffered his worst day of the 2024 season so far, one that started with a crash in final practice at the final corner.

That left his Aston Martin team with a lengthy repair job before qualifying, and when Alonso went out in qualifying things quickly went awry again.

He lost control of his upgraded Aston through the Variante Tamburello chicane, touching the grass into Turn 4 and running his AMR24 off the road.

This likely gave his Aston floor damage and it meant he quickly abandoned his final run (for now for an "unknown problem" according to Alonso), having to accept his fate as the slowest driver in qualifying at Imola.

He's only saved from starting the Emilia Romagna GP last because under-pressure Williams driver Logan Sargeant had all of his competitive qualifying laps deleted for track limits, the first of which was due to an off-track moment at the Variante Villeneuve.

His final deleted lap was 0.23s adrift of Albon.

Sargeant admitted "it's just been a grind this weekend" and even more challenging when he didn't have the upgraded, lighter floor that's on Albon's car.

Both Saubers were also dumped out of Q1, with Valtteri Bottas ahead of team-mate Zhou Guanyu by 0.208s in 16th and 17th respectively.

Magnussen (18th-fastest) was over a second slower than team-mate Hulkenberg (third-fastest) in Q1, albeit in large part due to finding Piastri in his path before Tamburelllo on a crucial final lap on what was a fast-evolving track.

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