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F1: 2024 Imola Grand Prix – Verstappen celebrated at Imola after huge drama in the final laps

max verstappen red bull racing formula 1 imola 2024
Imola, Italy. 17th May, 2024. Oracle Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen competes during the second practice session of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola. Credit: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News. Licenced to Auto.Racing by | 2X760D2

In another win for the three-time consecutive world champion, Max Verstappen celebrated the top step for the third time on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola, achieving the 59th victory of his career.

Qualifying Recap

Verstappen was fastest in qualifying and in doing so took his eighth pole position in a row despite the difficulties his RB20 had at the start of the race weekend. Max became the first driver since 1989 to achieve this feat. The last to do it was the legendary Ayrton Senna, with this race marking 30 years since the tragedy at Imola.

Second in qualifying was the McLaren driver, Oscar Piastri, who could have taken pole if not for a mistake on his final attempt. Piastri’s qualifying became worse after he was penalized, forcing him to start the race from fifth place.

His teammate, Lando Norris took third in qualifying. The most disappointing performances in qualifying came from Sergio Perez who only managed 11th, while two-time world champion Fernando Alonso started last due to a mistake in Q1.

Race Recap: Max managed to withstand heavy pressure from Norris

Verstappen was dominant in Sunday’s race at Imola though Lando Norris put enormous pressure on him in the last few laps. One more lap was likely all it would have taken for the final outcome to be very different, however Max held on to achieve his fifth victory of the season.

“It hurts me to say, but one or two more laps and I think I would’ve had him, “Tough, a shame. I fought hard right to the very last lap. We just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning. He was much better in the first stint and obviously in the second we were stronger. That just was a tough first half and a much better second half. One or two more laps would’ve been beautiful, just not today”, Norris said.

In the end, the two were only separated by seven tenths at the finish line. During most of the race, it seemed that Verstappen was on for another safe victory, however after the final round of pit stops there was a dramatic change. Norris began to quickly catch the three-time champion over the final 10 laps.

Norris, who won his first career victory this season at the Miami Grand Prix, was consistently closing the gap at around a second a lap, entering the last lap with a gap of less than one second. He had no chance to attack Verstappen as the Dutchman drove perfectly under immense pressure without making a mistake to the finish. The start of the race likely decided the final outcome, after Norris lost a lot of time and Verstappen quickly broke away, clearly outpacing his rivals.

“I think on the medium tyres we were quite strong, on the hard tyres it was just a bit more difficult to manage, especially in the last 10, 15 laps. I had no grip anymore, I was really sliding a lot. I saw Lando closing in, so the last 10 laps I was just flat out. It’s very difficult when the tyres are not working anymore and you have to go flat out“, Verstappen said.

Charles Leclerc drove a solitary race at Imola in third place. The driver from Monaco closed the gap to Norris at one point, trailing only a second behind, however with Norris’s McLaren performing better on the final set of tyres, LeClerc came home with a six-second advantage over Oscar Piastri.

“At least it’s a podium. I’m only very happy when I win and today we didn’t quite make it. We were very fast at the beginning of the stint on the hard [tyre]. I started to push to try and put some pressure on Lando [Norris], but later on they were incredibly quick. All in all I think the race pace today was quite strong“, Leclerc said.

Piastri managed to emerge ahead in a duel with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. finishing the race in fourth place with Sainz 8 seconds behind.

As for the remainder of final standings, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished the race 6th, ahead of his Mercedes teammate George Russell.

Sergio Perez finished the race in eighth, with Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Yuki Tsunoda’s RB taking out the final points at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The 2024 Imola race was held after a one-year break due to floods in the region causing cancellation last season. The race almost ended without incident, Alex Albon was the only retirement after one wheel nut was not secured during a pit stop, he was later forced to withdraw.

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