Autosport (UK)



Before the weekend, you’d hardly have got long odds on Max Verstappen matching Ayrton Senna’s record with an eighth successive pole position. After Friday’s sessions, however, it looked increasing­ly unlikely that the Dutchman would draw level with yet another Formula 1 record.

It’s not an exaggerati­on to say that Red Bull was in trouble before qualifying started. A set-up miscue across Friday’s sessions prompted a flurry of overnight work after Verstappen and Sergio Perez found their RB20S awkward to deal with across Imola’s range of short-apex corners, but changes for FP3 threw the balance too far the other way; the car was too on-the-nose in FP1 and FP2, but this went too far rearwards for Saturday morning.

Further changes for qualifying brought the cars alive. Verstappen could start attacking the kerbs more, and the early deficits through the second sector had been ironed out to ensure Red Bull could start making a splash at Acque Minerali. Verstappen reeled off the fastest times in Q1 and Q2, but it was going to be close between him and the Mclarens in the pole shootout; the championsh­ip leader threw down the gauntlet, composed of a 1m14.869s. Lando Norris got close, setting a 1m14.942s as Oscar Piastri strayed slightly beyond the 1m15s boundary, but the second and final round of laps was even tighter.

Verstappen whittled his best lap down to a 1m14.746s, and Norris ended up just under a tenth shy. Piastri split the pair with a 1m14.820s, Mclaren ultimately proving unable to arrest Red Bull’s turnaround from its Friday struggle, and the Australian was then subject to a three-place penalty for impeding Kevin

Magnussen in Q1.

The Ferraris had led the line on Friday, but hadn’t really been able to factor in the battle for pole. Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest and over two tenths off Verstappen’s final lap, with Carlos Sainz another quarter of a second away from his team-mate to ensure he could just about contain Mercedes’ George Russell.

Yuki Tsunoda also starred in qualifying, easily making it into Q3 at the Imola circuit he knows intimately thanks to RB’S proximity to the venue, although his hopes of breaking into the top three rows of Sunday’s grid were dashed simply by the escalation of the other teams’ pace. This proved enough for seventh, beating both Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo.

Perez struggled more than Verstappen and failed to make it into Q3. The Mexican had to use an extra set of tyres to progress from Q1, compromisi­ng his first Q2 run as he pressed scrubbed tyres into service. He couldn’t get the formula right on his last run of the session, falling short of the Q3 cut-off.

“The early deficits had been ironed out to ensure Red Bull could start making a splash at Acque Minerali”

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom