Reigning world champion Verstappen had to fight back to beat Leclerc after the Ferrari driver made a brilliant start to move ahead of the polesitter and snatch the lead on the run to the first chicane. 

Leclerc appeared to be in control of the sprint and held a 1.5 second advantage over Verstappen at one stage but the Red Bull driver closed back up into DRS range to set up a thrilling finale. 

Verstappen made the race-winning move with a stunning pass around the outside of Leclerc at the Tamburello chicane thanks to some trademark late braking as he reclaimed the lead. 

The Red Bull driver immediately pulled a gap on Leclerc as the Monegasque’s tyres fell off at the end to finish nearly three seconds clear after 21 laps and claim pole position for Sunday’s grand prix. 

A one-point swing over Leclerc leaves Verstappen 45 points behind the championship leader, who holds a 40-point advantage over Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz at the top of the standings. 

Verstappen on pole position for F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Sergio Perez charged from seventh to complete the top three for Red Bull, ahead of Carlos Sainz, who turned in an impressive recovery drive to gain six places after his qualifying crash left him 10th on the grid. 

Lando Norris led home McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo in fifth, while Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas beat Kevin Magnussen’s Haas to take seventh. 

Fernando Alonso and Mick Schumacher finished ninth and 10th for Alpine and Haas respectively as they each secured top-1o starts for the grand prix.

Mercedes’ George Russell (11th) and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda (12th) made late moves to get past Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin, who fell down the order from ninth. 

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton lost two places on the first lap and could only recover to 14th for Mercedes after overtaking Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll. 

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was 16th, ahead of only Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and the Williams pair of Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi, who ended up last. 

F1 rookie Guanyu Zhou was the sole retirement and will start from the very back of the grid on Sunday after the Alfa Romeo driver was sent spinning into the barriers at Piratella following opening lap contact with Gasly.