Verstappen outduels inspired Norris to take tough victory in Imola

Max Verstappen led McLaren's Lando Norris and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to take yet another F1 victory at Imola

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Lando Norris came alive in the pulsating final stages against Max Verstappen at the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix but the Dutchman held on to claim victory by a meagre 0.725 seconds and rescue an otherwise forgettable afternoon at Imola.

The definition of a slow burner, the race appeared to be a procession until the final third when Norris turned up the heat on Verstappen and was oh-so-close to a second successive win.

However, a slight error cost Norris a DRS advantage to start the final lap and Verstappen just about hung on, with Charles Leclerc completing the podium.

Verstappen held the net lead from lap one after McLaren and Ferrari were too preoccupied with fighting each other off the line, and he looked set to ease to victory after being denied by Norris last time out in Miami.

“I’m pushing as much as I can mate thank you”

Lando Norris’ McLaren team radio as he raced to catch Verstappen

However, Verstappen hit a pace wall out of nowhere in the final stages as the gap plummeted from over five seconds to 1.6 with five laps to go.

With Verstappen complaining over team radio and on the verge of a track limits penalty, Norris‘ charge faltered as a couple of minor mistakes cost him the chance to attempt an overtake on the Red Bull.

Leclerc had the chance to challenge Norris at the first braking zone but bailed out in front of the Ferrari crowd and enjoyed a largely quiet afternoon from there, with the rest of the grid in another league to the leading pair.

Oscar Piastri looked like he might provide the entertainment as he jumped Carlos Sainz at the pit stop stage and was within a second of Leclerc for an extended spell, but ultimately his degradation demons returned to prevent a McLaren double-podium.

The Australian had to settle for splitting the Ferraris in fourth and helping close the gap in the battle for fourth in the constructors’ championship.

Mercedes secured a strong haul by their 2024 standards, though George Russell may be less than impressed in the post-race debrief as he was called into the pits to earn the fastest lap point but dropped behind Lewis Hamilton with 11 laps to go.

Eighth-placed Sergio Perez underlined Verstappen‘s individual contribution to the victory as the Dutchman’s teammate was a non-factor for much of the afternoon, as Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda completed the points positions.

Aston Martin‘s major upgrade Imola package failed to pay dividends with Fernando Alonso turning a pitlane start into a 19th-place finish ahead of only the retired Albon.

Verstappen confirms Red Bull vulnerability despite win

Lando Norris during practice for the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP | McLaren
Lando Norris during practice for the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP | McLaren

‘It can’t get any worse’ was Verstappen‘s prognosis after a miserable Friday at Imola that saw the Dutchman lag well behind Leclerc, ending the afternoon over half a second back in FP2.

And he was right, but maybe even Verstappen didn’t dare to dream how much better it would get. He left everything on the track to secure an impressive pole – half the battle at one of the most difficult F1 circuits for overtaking, but not quite Monaco levels as Perez showed with his HGV impression at the end of his first stint.

After a trademark smooth start, Verstappen looked set to ease to victory and was the opposite of flustered in the cockpit of his RB20 in another major departure to his ragged Friday.

But despite an early black-and-white flag haunting the rest of Verstappen‘s race, he was inch-perfect as Norris closed in and found a few puffs of a second wind to edge over the line in first.

The rest of the grid can take heart with the way Norris cleaved through Verstappen‘s advantage though. Any fears that the 2024 season would be a carbon copy of 2023 have been dashed by McLaren‘s upturn, so bring on Monaco.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com 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 Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net 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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