Verstappen defies Imola woes and McLaren to secure stunning Emilia Romagna GP pole

Max Verstappen led Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in F1 qualifying for the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP at Imola


Max Verstappen defied Red Bull‘s struggles throughout their 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to take a scintillating Imola pole position, less than a tenth ahead of both McLarens led by Oscar Piastri.

Verstappen bounced back from a torrid three hours of practice to top every qualifying session and despite Sergio Perez appearing the more optimistic Red Bull driver on Friday, the Mexican was dumped out of Q2 over half a second behind his teammate.

Meanwhile Fernando Alonso shockingly trailed home last in Q1 – though he was later promoted one spot when Logan Sargeant‘s laptime was deleted – after tireless work from Aston Martin to ready his car for qualifying following his shunt in FP3.


Sergio Perez’s team radio after exiting qualifying in Q2 at Imola

Ferrari had looked like the team to beat on Friday at Imola and finished third and fourth behind the two McLarens in FP3, but when it really mattered they couldn’t find the necessary pace.

Neither Charles Leclerc nor Carlos Sainz improved on their final Q3 runs and will line up fourth and fifth at a staggering 0.224 and 0.487 seconds behind Verstappen.

Piastri may lose his front-row start as the Australian remains under investigation for a Q1 incident with Kevin Magnussen, and couldn’t claim pole despite going purple in the middle sector.

George Russell was only a thousandth of a second behind Sainz with Yuki Tsunoda splitting the Mercedes and ninth-placed Daniel Ricciardo completing a successful Saturday at RB’s home track, with Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

Both Alpines survived Q1 in a strong showing and Esteban Ocon was the best of the rest behind Perez while Alex Albon in 14th heaped more pain on Sargeant. Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly rounded out the Q2 eliminations ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Magnussen.

Alonso and Sargeant form miserable back row

The back row of the grid isn’t usually the happiest part of an Formula 1 circuit, but even by those standards Alonso and Sargeant will be a particularly miserable pairing.

Since the 2023 Japanese GP there’s been six occasions that a driver has failed to set a legal lap in sprint or grand prix qualifying, and Sargeant is staggeringly responsible for five of them, extending that run in Imola as the pressure on his F1 future mounts.

Aston Martin emphasised to media including just how hard the team had worked to get Alonso‘s AMR23 ready for qualifying, and Sargeant‘s demotion at least rewarded them with one spot’s improvement from the very back.

Alonso said Aston Martin fueled him up for the whole session and he only pitted to quickly change tyres, before an unknown problem ended his qualifying as he was forced to abandon his last run at making Q2 and finished three tenths behind Lewis Hamilton‘s the cutoff time.

“The team was incredible today, it was nice to witness that,” Alonso told Sky Sports. “The hours before qualifying both teams together, car #18 [Stroll] and car #14 working flat out to put my car in qualifying and we managed to do so, so a big thanks to everyone.

“I set the best laptime in qualifying in the first attempt when we had a lot of fuel on board and then the last attempt when the car was lighter we had to stop for an unknown problem, we had to box.”

“It’s a very painful race starting from the back, Imola‘s the second most difficult circuit to overtake just behind MonacoSingapore is easier than Imola just to put a number on it – so it will be tough, there are good days and bad days.”

Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for and in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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