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Qualifying in Italy: Max Verstappen speeds to pole at the last minute for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

Written by Maria Fashchevskaya, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri


Max Verstappen sped to pole last minute in an action-packed qualifying in Imola: the Dutchman usurped the McLarens and Ferraris, while his teammate Sergio Perez was eliminated in Q2. Both RB drivers made a surprise appearance in Q3, as Tsunoda qualified in front of Ricciardo once again.


Image Credits: Bryn Lennon – Formula 1

It is race week and Formula One is kicking off its European leg of races at the home of the Tifosi, in Imola. This weekend will definitely be interesting, as the Red Bull of Max Verstappen had struggled throughout the Free Practices on Friday and Saturday. 


On paper, it looks like we could see a close fight between the home heroes, Ferrari, and the last Grand Prix winners McLaren around the Imola circuit. 


Q1

As qualifying unfolded, all drivers went out on soft tyres, barring the Ferraris. The first run around the circuit for Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc proved successful, as the Ferraris were only about 0.1-0.2s adrift of the McLarens at the provisional front row. 


Alex Albon was the first driver in today’s qualifying to dip into the new gravel on his first lap in Q1. Although he set a purple sector one, he lost control in the last corners and had to abort the lap. Meanwhile, the newest Formula One Grand Prix winner Lando Norris went to the top, showing strong pace in his McLaren. 


With ten minutes to go, Max Verstappen started his first flying lap without the earlier problems of the weekend. He quickly usurped all the drivers and went to the top. However, Oscar Piastri sped through with a 1:15.940s, claiming a position before the Dutchman. The Australian went into the pits right after that. 


At that point in Q1, some drivers did not yet set times on the board, including both Williams drivers. Thus, Hulkenberg, Gasly, Zhou and – of course – both Williams drivers were in the elimination zone.


Alonso exited qualifying early, due to bad luck; Image Credits: Formula One

With around seven minutes to go, Fernando Alonso lost his Aston Martin in the first corners of the track and hit the gravel hard. This was a consequence of the changes in the track layout, as gravel traps have been added in turns nine, and 11 to 15. 


It seemed that Alonso’s damage had been significant, as he did not finish another lap in Q1 and pulled into the pits, calling an early exit in qualifying. 


With five minutes to go, Alex Albon was the only one out on track, having the opportunity to knock in a time on a clear track. He finished his flying lap, moving out of the elimination zone then. At risk were also Zhou, Alonso, and American Sargeant still without a time on the board.


In the last minutes of Q2, both Haas drivers were at risk while on timed laps. Then in a surprise turn of events, Nico Hulkenberg soared to provisional pole with a 1:15.762s just before the chequered flag was waved, gaining a roar of applause from the team’s garage. 


While Q1 had ended, the stewards would investigate the possible impeding of Kevin Magnussen by Oscar Piastri on the Dane’s flying lap after the session. Further, Williams’ Sargeant lost his timed lap over track limits, and would start from 20th position in the race. 


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



Q2

“Where is everyone?”, asked Hamilton over team radio, as the second segment of qualifying started – 15 minutes of action-packed racing for pole position in Imola. The Mercedes drivers were the first to lay down a lap around the Italian circuit on soft tyres. As Ferrari had gone out on mediums in Q1, they saved some softs for the rest of qualifying. 


The Tifosi are in Imola for Ferrari; Image Credits: Clive Rose

Max Verstappen finished his first timed lap in Q2 with a 1:15.386s, usurping the Mercedes and Alex Albon. His teammate Sergio Perez followed with a gap of almost half a second to the Dutchman. 


With ten minutes to go, everyone was out to make up a flying lap around the track. Nico Hulkenberg knocked in his first flying lap in Q2 by 0.7s to Verstappen. Although both Ferraris quickly surpassed him in much fresher sets of soft tyres. 


Yuki Tsunoda was looking quick today, as on his first flying lap in Q2 the Japanese finished only three hundredths off Charles Leclerc, while the Monegasque was on top of the board provisionally. The top four were separated by less than one-tenth of a second at that time of Q2.


With five minutes to go, Alex Albon was again the only driver out on the track, having a flying lap. Sitting at the bottom of the board in Q2, he finished his lap with a gap of 0.003s to Russell in 11th place, settling into 12th position. At risk was also Hamilton, while Russell, Albon, Gasly, Ocon and Stroll were in the elimination zone. 


Thus, most drivers went out to set their laps, while Perez and Tsunoda stayed in the pits, being seemingly sure of Q3 entry. With two minutes to go, the Mercedes were on another timed lap, trying to exit Q2. 


Speeding over the line, George Russell improved to sixth and Lewis Hamilton to seventh place, respectively. Nico Hulkenberg usurped both of them, pushing himself to sixth position. Daniel Ricciardo was on the edge of getting eliminated, sitting in ninth place after his last run. 


Perez out of Q2 in Imola. Image Credits: Formula One

Then Sergio Perez went again out on track, at risk of being eliminated, as Ferraris gradually improved. However, the Mexican could not improve on his last run, and finished 11th by leaving 0.015s to 10th place. Thus, Daniel Ricciardo was saved, and entered Q3.  


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



Q3

As the last segment of qualifying started, Ferrari and McLaren were the first to send out their cars on track for a final run in Imola today. 


With ten minutes to go, Max Verstappen was followed by Lando Norris for a first timed lap, as the Dutchman scored a purple first sector, while the Brit sped to purple in the second and third sectors. There was only a gap of 0.073s between the rivals at the end of the laps.


The only car left in the pits at that time was Daniel Ricciardo, as his teammate Yuki Tsunoda rushed on track with a gap of 0.596s to the front – an exceptional pace of the RB. 


The Ferraris were looking strong on the first run, placing third and fifth on the board. Nico Hulkenberg sat ninth with five minutes to go.


After a short break, three minutes before the end of qualifying traffic in the pitlane started, as everyone went out of the pits for one last try in Q3. 


The final run was opened by Ferrari, as Charles Leclerc already lost out significantly in the first sector, while having a purple second one. Sainz went fifth, while Leclerc stayed third. Max Verstappen beat his own time on his final lap, finishing 1:14.746s. 


The McLarens were speedy in Imola. Image Credits: Formula One

The McLarens were the ones to challenge the Dutchman today: as Lando Norris crossed the finish line, he had a gap of 0.09s to the Red Bull, while Oscar Piastri finished before him with a gap of 0.07s to Verstappen. Thus, the Dutchman will be surrounded by the papayas on the grid tomorrow. 


Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz would start from fourth and fifth place, respectively, as they weren’t able to take a step forward on the final runs in Q3. George Russell would start from sixth, in front of Yuki Tsunoda and teammate Lewis Hamilton. 


With ninth position for tomorrow’s grid, Daniel Ricciardo wrapped up a good start of the weekend for the home team Visa Cash App RB. Nico Hulkenberg will start from tenth tomorrow. 


Who will win the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix tomorrow? Let us know your predictions in the comments below. 



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