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Verstappen grabs unexpected pole position in Imola ahead of Piastri and Norris

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen has added to his run of pole positions by clinching P1 on the grid for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, with the Dutchman narrowly triumphing over his rivals with an unbeatable lap in Imola.

Verstappen had set a strong benchmark during the initial runs of Q3 and improved even further during his final effort, pumping in a time of 1m 14.746s in the Red Bull. This put him 0.074s clear of second-placed Oscar Piastri - who post-session was penalised three grid places for Sunday's Grand Prix for impeding the Haas of Kevin Magnussen in Q1 - and McLaren team mate Lando Norris in third.

READ MORE: Verstappen hails last-minute set-up changes after claiming surprise Imola pole and equalling Senna’s record

Charles Leclerc was the lead Ferrari in fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz in fifth, with the Scuderia not quite matching the pace they had displayed earlier in the weekend. George Russell went sixth for Mercedes, while Yuki Tsunoda impressively took seventh place in front of RB’s home crowd.

Lewis Hamilton claimed P8 in the Mercedes, with the top 10 rounded out by RB’s Daniel Ricciardo in P9 and the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg in P10.

Emilia-Romagna 2024

Qualifying results

PositionTeam NameTime
1VER1:14.746
2PIA1:14.820
3NOR1:14.837
4LEC1:14.970
5SAI1:15.233
View Full Results

There was a surprise moment in Q2 when Sergio Perez failed to improve on his final lap, leaving the Red Bull driver in P11. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also missed out on progressing into the last segment of qualifying, and so too did the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.

Alex Albon acted as the lead Williams by slotting into 14th, while Pierre Gasly was just behind in 15th place for Alpine.

The Kick Sauber duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu exited Q1 in P16 and P17 respectively, ahead of Kevin Magnussen in P18. Piastri will be investigated after the session for potentially impeding the Haas driver during his final flying lap.

Fernando Alonso caused a shock by dropping out of qualifying in P19, while the Williams of Logan Sargeant will line up in P20 after his lap time – which had originally placed him in P17 – was deleted for track limits.

Qualifying Highlights: 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

AS IT HAPPENED

Q1 – Verstappen fastest while Alonso makes shock exit

After a frenetic end to the third and final practice hour earlier in the day, most of the teams and drivers were set to go again when Q1 got under way at 1600 local time.

Some question marks remained, though, over whether Alonso’s car would be ready for the beginning of the session, with his Aston Martin having looked a little worse for wear following his crash in FP3.

While Gasly led the pack out of the pit lane when the green light appeared, Aston Martin seemed to be putting the final touches to Alonso’s AMR24, meaning that the Spaniard would indeed compete in the session.

READ MORE: Alonso braced for ‘extremely tough’ race in Imola on weekend where ‘everything has gone wrong’

Most drivers had bolted on the soft C5 tyre for their opening runs, with Russell, Leclerc and Sainz acting as an interesting exception by running the medium C4 compound before the Mercedes soon switched to the softs.

Albon and Norris, meanwhile, both dipped a wheel into the gravel early on, suggesting that the windy conditions seen on Friday could still be posing a problem for some at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: Oscar Piastri of Australia driving the (81) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on track

Piastri displayed good pace in the McLaren during the session

Piastri put himself at the top of the timesheets as Q1 reached its halfway point, with the Australian setting a lap of 1m 15.940s to go seven-hundredths clear of Verstappen in P2. Soon afterwards he was displaced by McLaren team mate Norris as the times continued to tumble.

There was a scare for Alonso when the Spaniard ran wide and subsequently took a trip through the gravel, putting his chances of escaping the elimination zone at risk. Elsewhere Albon improved to P12 to get out of danger, while others were also busy trying to avoid the drop zone.

Amongst those was Hulkenberg, who impressively surged to the top of the timesheets in the Haas, though Verstappen soon took over the P1 slot. Ricciardo also got himself further up the field, and Hamilton narrowly made it through in P15.

Kick Sauber’s Bottas and Zhou weren’t so lucky, ending the session in P16 and P17 respectively. Magnussen could not match team mate Hulkenberg’s success and found himself in P18, with the Dane voicing his unhappiness at Piastri seemingly getting in his way on his flying lap. The incident will be investigated after the session.

The biggest shock came courtesy of Alonso, who pitted during the final moments which put him in P20 before being promoted to P19 when Sargeant had a lap time deleted, dropping the American down to last place.

Knocked out: Bottas, Zhou, Magnussen, Alonso, Sargeant

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: Logan Sargeant of United States driving the (2) Williams FW46 Mercedes on

Sargeant dropped to the back of the order after having a lap time deleted due to exceeding track limits

Q2 – Mixed fortunes for Red Bull as Verstappen quickest and Perez eliminated

The Mercedes drivers were the first to hit the track when Q2 began, with both running a set of used softs. Neither, though, could match Verstappen’s pace-setting time from Q1. It was the Dutchman who again went quickest as the early laps came in thanks to an effort of 1m 15.386s.

Others were keen to challenge this, however. Leclerc slotted in at the top of the timesheets by the halfway point, with Tsunoda catching the eye by pumping in a lap just 0.030s away from the Ferrari.

Things did not seem to be going so well for Mercedes. Both Hamilton and Russell looked to potentially be at risk after the initial laps, along with the Alpine cars, the sole Aston Martin of Stroll and Albon in the Williams.

As most of the pack emerged again for a final run, a flurry of laps saw the Silver Arrows pair haul themselves into the top 10 while Ricciardo just made it into 10th place. All eyes then turned to Perez, who found himself at risk in 11th.

The Mexican ultimately failed to improve, leaving him down in P11 – a marked contrast to team mate Verstappen, who went fastest of all on a 1m 15.176s.

Knocked out: Perez, Ocon, Stroll, Albon, Gasly

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 in the

Perez could not escape the elimination zone in Q2, putting him down in 11th place

Q3 – Verstappen improves further to seal pole

A mixture of soft tyres were in play when Q3 got under way, with most opting for fresh rubber while Hulkenberg and the Mercedes pair were running used. Verstappen was the first to break into the 1m 14s by going fastest on a 1m 14.869s, while Norris set a time 0.0.73s away in P2.

Piastri had looked quick, having gone fastest of all in the final sector, but a mistake earlier in the lap scuppered the McLaren driver’s effort. Ricciardo, meanwhile, chose to stay in the pits and put in just one flying lap during the final minutes.

Following a lull in the action, it was time for the decisive runs as everyone tried to beat Verstappen’s impressive benchmark. The Red Bull driver was the one to improve on his own time, though, setting a lap of 1m 14.746s.

This proved to be unbeatable, with Piastri the driver to get closest on a time 0.074s away. His McLaren team mate Norris slotted into third, followed by the Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Sainz in fourth and fifth respectively.

Russell was the lead Mercedes in P6, with Tsunoda doing a solid job by going seventh quickest. His team mate Ricciardo took P9 on his sole flying lap, with Hamilton taking P8 to split the RB cars.

Hulkenberg, meanwhile, strengthened his reputation for performing well on Saturdays by taking P10 in the Haas.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red

Verstappen claimed his eighth consecutive pole position in qualifying for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

Key quote

“A really difficult weekend so far, even this morning,” said Verstappen after the session. “I’m incredibly happy to be on pole here, I didn’t expect that. We made some final changes before qualifying, they seemed to make it feel a bit better, I could push a bit harder.

“This track is unbelievable, on a qualifying lap, to be on the limit here, close to the gravel... I touched the gravel in the last corner. I’m still pumping, the adrenaline is very, very high.”

What’s next

The 2024 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix is set to begin at 1500 local time on Sunday. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can catch the action from Imola.

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