Hulkenberg admits helping Max Verstappen secure Imola pole position

Verstappen gained a crucial advantage by gaining a tow from the Haas car which ultimately gave him pole position in Imola


Nico Hulkenberg has confessed to intentionally providing Max Verstappen with a slipstream during the final laps of Qualifying, assisting the Red Bull driver in clinching pole position for the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.

After the first runs in Q3, Verstappen topped the timesheets with a 1:14.869, ahead of Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc

Verstappen then bettered his time to 1:14.746 on his final lap, a crucial improvement as both McLaren drivers, Oscar Piastri and Norris, surpassed the reigning world champion’s initial lap time.

Post-Qualifying footage revealed Hulkenberg, who secured 10th position, towing Verstappen to the first chicane on the Dutchman’s final Q3 lap, a move that significantly impacted the battle for pole position.

“Max and I have been assisting each other in Qualifying,” Hulkenberg told Sky Sports F1. “He helped me out a few times in Q2, and I reciprocated. You need support sometimes.”

Hulkenberg was the first driver to finish his final Q3 run, with Verstappen tactically allowing the Haas driver to pass before the penultimate corner, then following the Haas car up the main straight at Imola.

Max Verstappen after securing pole position for the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP at Imola | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen after securing pole position for the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP at Imola | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

No denial from Verstappen

This manoeuvre placed Verstappen in Hulkenberg‘s slipstream on the main straight, reducing aerodynamic drag.

“We were tow partners out there in Q2 and again in Q3. So, I gave him a tow to Turn 17, and he returned the favour to Turn 2,” Verstappen said. 

“I think I arrived a bit too quickly for my liking because I did miss Turn 2 a little bit, so I gained and then lost a bit in Turn 2. Overall, it helped me a little. 

“When you are struggling the whole weekend and finally things start to click, you have to look for these small advantages to stay ahead, and it worked out beautifully.”

John Smith
John Smith
Editor at and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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