How did Lando Norris almost snatch victory from Max Verstappen at Imola?

Red Bull's Max Verstappen pipped the McLaren of Lando Norris to take another F1 victory at the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP

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Max Verstappen blamed Red Bull‘s hard tyre performance for almost costing him victory at the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with both he and Lando Norris predicting another couple of laps would’ve given the McLaren driver the win.

Verstappen appeared to be easing to his third successive Imola victory – with Michael Schumacher the last to complete that hat trick – after he’d broken away from Norris and the chasing Ferraris at lights out.

However, Norris began decimating the gap lap-by-lap in the closing stages with Verstappen unable to extract the same pace from his hard tyres, though the McLaren crucially driver lost momentum when he hit

“I think on the mediums it was very good so that felt really nice,” Verstappen told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com. “But then as soon as you swapped to the hard tyres, maybe not the first five to 10 laps, but after that I was not sure I can bring this to the end.

“The tyres just fell out of the operating window and it was just like driving on ice, really snappy and you can feel when the tyres are not gripping up anymore, like turn seven I almost ended up in the grandstand at some point.”

“It’s just very difficult, those last 10 laps I was really trying to survive the tyres and then suddenly Lando really picked up the pace, so I could see him catch up of course, I wasn’t sure if I could keep him behind.

“But I was just trying to do the best I could pushing as hard as I could with the grip that I had and luckily, it was just enough laps.”

Verstappen: I couldn’t go any faster

Max Verstappen leads Lando Norris of McLaren at the start of the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen leads Lando Norris of McLaren at the start of the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

However, Verstappen added that he was already getting the maximum out of his Red Bull before Norris began closing the gap in earnest, and instead focussed on eliminating any mistakes at the death.

Norris was just 0.7 seconds behind when he crossed the line to end an edge-of-the-seat duel between the two form drivers in Formula 1.

Verstappen was on a warning for track limits infringements and also faced battery issues in the closing stages, but a small error by Norris on the penultimate lap denied him a crucial spurt of DRS and the chance to at least attempt an overtake.

“As soon as [he was closing] half a second a lap, I was like, that’s a lot,” Verstappen said when asked when he started to worry about Norris. “But at the other end you can’t do anything about it so I was just trying to do my pace.

“You cannot suddenly try and force a half a second out of it when you don’t have the balance so I was just trying to really not make mistakes, tried to drive round the balance issues that I had, and be quick on the straight

“So that’s basically what I think helped me a bit at the end, with the rear wing that we had we’re quite fast on the straight and that probably helped a bit in the last few laps to defend.”

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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