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Verstappen thrilled to take Imola victory as he reflects on ‘very difficult’ issue during late-race challenge from Norris

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen was left “incredibly pleased” with his hard-fought win in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, with the Dutchman bouncing back from issues earlier in the weekend as well as fending off a charge from Lando Norris to take victory.

Having made a strong start from pole position, Verstappen looked to be heading for an unchallenged drive to P1 for much of the event. However, as his tyres started to drop off during the latter stages, Norris was able to significantly close in on the Red Bull.

READ MORE: Verstappen holds off thrilling late charge from Norris to win Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

While a thrilling battle for the lead looked to be on the cards, Norris also found himself struggling for grip and Verstappen managed to hold on as the chequered flag was waved, crossing the line just 0.725s ahead of the McLaren.

Reflecting on the events of the afternoon after jumping out of the car, Verstappen explained how his victory – marking his fifth in the 2024 season – had not come easily.

2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: Verstappen crosses the line just ahead of Norris to take victory at Imola

“I think the whole race I had to push flat out to try and make a gap initially,” the 26-year-old commented. “I think on the medium tyres we were quite strong, on the hard tyres it was just a bit more difficult to manage, especially in the last 10, 15 laps.

“I had no grip anymore, I was really sliding a lot. I saw Lando closing in, so the last 10 laps I was just flat out. It’s very difficult when the tyres are not working anymore and you have to go flat out.

RACE START: Watch the getaway from Imola as Verstappen fends off the McLarens and Ferraris

“I couldn't afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily we didn’t, and super happy of course to win here today.”

Verstappen had faced some difficulties with his RB20 at the start of the weekend in Imola, having struggled to find the right balance during Friday’s practice sessions before recovering to take pole position as well as the race win.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing

Verstappen held onto his lead despite a late charge from Norris

Asked how he and the team had managed this, the world champion said: “We changed a lot on the car. We didn't have a lot of information going into the race, maybe that’s why on the hard tyres it was a bit more difficult for us.

“But I think from where we started the weekend to now, we can be incredibly pleased with a pole and a win. I'll take that!”

DRIVER OF THE DAY: Hard-charging Norris gets your vote after coming oh-so-close to Imola victory

Verstappen leaves the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari with his points tally at the top of the drivers’ standings now at 161 points, giving him an advantage of 48 over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in second.

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