Max Verstappen pips McLarens to Imola pole, shockers for Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso

Max Verstappen beats the McLaren pair of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris to pole at Imola.

Max Verstappen claimed his seventh pole of 2024
Max Verstappen claimed his seventh pole of 2024

Max Verstappen continued his 100 percent record of qualifying on pole position at the F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but he was made to work for it.

The Red Bull driver had not topped a single session heading into qualifying, but bounced back from his struggles on Friday to secure his seventh straight pole of 2024 with a lap that was just 0.074s faster than McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

"A really difficult weekend so far, even this morning," Verstappen said. "So yeah, I’m incredibly happy to be on pole here. I didn’t expect that. 

"We made some final changes before qualifying. They seemed to make it feel a bit better, I could push a bit harder. 

"And this track is unbelievable, on a qualifying lap to be on the limit here, close to the gravel, I touched the gravel in the last corner - yeah I’m still pumping, the adrenaline is still very, very high."

F1’s newest winner Lando Norris, who was pipped to second place by his teammate, was third and just 0.091s shy of claiming pole himself.

After making a promising start to their first home race of the season at Imola, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz could not challenge for pole and ended up a disappointing fourth and fifth.

George Russell took sixth ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, who starred throughout qualifying on his way to splitting the Mercedes pair, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton nearly three-tenths slower than his Mercedes teammate.

Daniel Ricciardo ensured both RB drivers will start inside the top-10 at the Faenza-based outfit’s home race, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who grabbed 10th for Haas.

Sergio Perez was the surprise exit of Q2 as the Red Bull driver failed to progress into the final part of qualifying, ending up a disappointing 11th.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took 12th ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Williams’ Alex Albon, while Pierre Gasly was 15th.

Valtteri Bottas outpaced Sauber teammate Guanyu Zhou and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen for 16th.

Fernando Alonso had a shocker of a qualifying and ended up suffering a shock Q1 elimination in 19th.

A trip through the gravel ruined the Aston Martin driver’s first lap, before he backed out of his second run.

Logan Sargeant had set a time good enough for 17th in his Williams but had his lap deleted for exceeding track limits, a penalty which dropped him down to 20th and last.

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