Verstappen takes Imola GP pole, grid penalty for Piastri

Verstappen takes Imola GP pole, grid penalty for Piastri

Max Verstappen bounced back from a difficult build-up to take pole-position for the 2024 FIA Formula Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in a tight qualifying session at Imola in which he beat McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris by less than a tenth of a second. There was disappointment for Piastri after the session, however as the Australian was handed a three-place grid penalty by the race stewards for imnpeding Haas’ Kevin Magnussen earlier in the session. 


In Friday’s practice sessions Verstappen had branded his RB20 car “difficult” and the Red Bull driver went into Saturday looking for dramatic improvements in balance and performance. Those seemed to be materialising in the morning’s practice session, but crashes for Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez derailed that process and Verstappen went into qualifying largely blind. However, throughout qualifying Verstappen found more and more pace until the final run of Q3 when he improved marginally on his provisional pole time to seal his eighth consecutive pole and his seventh of 2024 seven hundredths of a second ahead of Piastri. 


“I felt more comfortable,” Verstappen said afterwards. “I could attack corners finally a bit more and it all started to come together and it really came together in Q3. It was just following the track, to be honest. A really difficult weekend so far, even this morning, so I'm incredibly happy to be on pole here.” 


At the beginning of the one-hour session it was Esteban Ocon who set the pace in Q1, with the Alpine driver posting a lap of 1:16.645 on Soft tyres to top the timesheet ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Charles Leclerc then beat Ocon by just 0.002, though the fact that the Monegasque driver did so on Medium tyres boded well for Ferrari’s hopes in the session. Norris then took over at the top thanks to a lap of 1:16.194 on Soft tyres. Verstappen then vaulted to the top of the order with a lap of 1:16.013. His stay in P1 was brief, though, as first Piastri and then Norris moved ahead with the latter taking top spot with a time of 1:15.915. 


In the final moments of the session, Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg sprung a surprise by posting a lap of 1:16.841 to take P1. Verstappen was on another run, however, and the Dutchman claimed the best time of the session with a lap of 1:15.762. Behind him, Leclerc put in another lap on Mediums and he took second place, just five hundredths off Max. 


There was no place in Q2 for Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu or for Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso or Williams’ Logan Sargeant. 


The Bulls were out early in Q2, with Verstappen posting a lap of 1:15.386 to take P1 ahead of Pérez whose lap of 1:15.853 put him second. However, the Red Bulls were then split by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who stopped the clock at 1:15.702 and Leclerc then claimed the quickest time of the session with a lap of 1:15.328. There as also a second surprise of the session when RB’s Yuki Tusnoda jumped ahead of Verstappen to take P3 three hundredths of a second ahead of the Dutchman. 


In the final runs, Verstappen took top spot with a lap of 1:15.176, ahead of Leclerc and Tsunoda. Behind them, improvements were being made and RB’s Daniel Ricciardo scraped into the top 10 with a lap of 1:15.691. That left Pérez in P11 and though the Mexican was just starting his final flyer he couldn’t find the necessary pace and he slipped to his first Q2 exit of the year, 0.015s off Ricciardo and ahead of Ocon, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly. 


At the start of the top 10 shootout took provisional pole with a lap of 1:14.896, 0.073s ahead of Norris, with Leclerc in third, a further seven hundredths back. And in a tense sequence of final runs, the Dutchman grabbed his eight​h consecutive pole, recording a best time of 1:14.746, just 0.074 ahead of Piastri, with Norris also within a tenth of the champion in third place. 


Verstappen’s achievement equals the consecutive poles record held by Ayrton Senna who death 20 years at Imola is being marked this weekend. 

“It’s very special,” said Max of equalling Senna’s record. “It's 30 years since he passed away at this track, so of course I'm very pleased to get pole here. In a way, it's a nice memory to him. He was an incredible Formula 1 driver, especially in qualifying laps as well. So, yeah, a great day for me, a great day for the team!”


Following the session, the stewards summoned Piastri over his incident with Magnussen at the end of Q1 and after hearing from both drivers and their teams, Piastri was given a three-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race. It means that Norris advances to the front row alongside Verstappen, with Leclerc in P3 ahead of Sainz and then Piastri. George Russell will start sixth for Mercedes ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda and the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, while Daniel Ricciardo will start at the front of row five ahead of P10 qualifier Nico Hülkenberg.


2024 FIA Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1:14.746 - -
2 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 1:14.820 0.074 
3 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:14.837 0.091 
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:14.970 0.224 
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:15.233 0.487 
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:15.234 0.488 
7 Yuki Tsunoda RB/Honda RBPT 1:15.465 0.719 
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.504 0.758 
9 Daniel Ricciardo RB/Honda RBPT 1:15.674 0.928 
10 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1:15.980 1.234 
11 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1:15.706 0.960 
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:15.906 1.160 
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:15.992 1.246 
14 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1:16.200 1.454 
15 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1:16.381 1.635 
16 Valtteri Bottas Sauber/Ferrari 1:16.626 1.880 
17 Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Ferrari 1:16.834 2.088 
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:16.854 2.108 
19 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:16.917 2.171 
20 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes - - -

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