Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Max Verstappen ties Ayrton Senna consecutive pole record to beat McLarens at Imola

Max Verstappen equals Ayrton Senna’s run of eight poles, set in 1989; Oscar Piastri loses second on grid to team-mate Lando Norris with three-place penalty; Perez out in Q2, Alonso 19th; watch Sunday’s race live at 2pm on Sky Sports F1, with build-up from 12.30pm

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Highlights of qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Max Verstappen matched Ayrton Senna’s long-standing record of eight consecutive Formula 1 pole positions after impressively hitting back to deny Miami victors McLaren in qualifying for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Verstappen faced a serious challenge from the McLaren drivers after a difficult start to the weekend for world champions Red Bull but ultimately found the speed he needed in qualifying with a final lap of 1:14.746 to pip Oscar Piastri, who initially qualified second, and Lando Norris to the head of the grid by less than a tenth of a second.

However, Piastri’s second position on the grid always appeared vulnerable after the Australian had been placed under investigation by stewards during Q1 for impeding Kevin Magnussen. A three-place penalty was later confirmed for Piastri, dropping him to fifth and promoting team-mate Norris to the front row next to Verstappen.

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Verstappen’s eighth pole in a row – a sequence which dates back to the final round of the 2023 season in Abu Dhabi last November – ties Senna’s record, which the Brazilian great set in 1989. F1 has been paying tribute to the triple world champion at Imola this weekend, 30 years on from his death at the Italian circuit.

Verstappen also ties another legend of the sport, Alain Prost, with seven consecutive poles at the start of a season.

Piastri’s penalty promotes Leclerc and Sainz a place apiece to third and fourth.

Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Top 10

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

2) Lando Norris, McLaren

3) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

4) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

5) Oscar Piastri, McLaren*

6) George Russell, Mercedes

7) Yuki Tsunoda, RB

8) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

9) Daniel Ricciardo, RB

10) Nico Hulkenberg, Haas

3-place grid penalty applied

Mercedes, despite yet more changes to their W15 car, once more qualified behind their key rivals in sixth and eighth, although their 0.488s gap to the front was at least closer than other events recently.

In what is becoming a theme of their final season as team-mates, George Russell outqualified Lewis Hamilton for the sixth time in seven races – this time by over two-tenths a second.

The British pair are separated on the grid by RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, who has starred throughout the weekend so far and took seventh ahead of Hamilton. Tsunoda had threatened an even greater shock when he finished third in Q2.

Daniel Ricciardo was ninth in the second RB, with the ever-impressive Nico Hulkenberg once more rounding out the top 10.

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Watch Sergio Perez get knocked out of Qualifying at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

But Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (Q2) and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso (Q1) both suffered shock early exits having both earlier crashed in final practice.

How Verstappen turned the tables on fast rivals…with a little helping hand from a friend

Given he equalled a 35-year-old record for qualifying dominance on Saturday, it might seem strange to suggest that Verstappen’s latest pole was unexpected, but the world champion had certainly not appeared favourite to head qualifying after the three practice sessions at a sun-kissed Imola.

Verstappen had struggled with his upgraded RB20’s set-up on Friday, unusually running through the gravel on three separate occasions, and while the car appeared in a happier place in Saturday’s earlier final practice, he finished the session before qualifying still adrift of the McLarens and Ferraris.

Verstappen did top both Q1 and Q2 at the start of qualifying ahead of Leclerc but his rivals had been quicker in the opening laps of each season.

“A difficult weekend so far, even this morning. Incredibly happy to be on pole here. I didn’t expect that,” said Verstappen.

“We made some final changes before qualifying and they seemed to make it feel better. I could push harder.

“This track is unbelievable. To be on the limit here in qualifying, close to the gravel, I touched the gravel in the last corner.

“The adrenaline is very, very high.”

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Nico Hulkenberg and Max Verstappen explain how the Haas driver’s helpful tow got Max Verstappen pole at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

Holding a slender 0.073s advantage over initial closest Q3 challenger Norris heading into the decisive final attempts of qualifying, Verstappen benefitted from a straightline-speed boosting ‘tow’ from Hulkenberg’s Haas ahead of him on the track on the long curved run to the first chicane.

“We were tow buddies out there,” said Verstappen. In Q2 already, and in Q3. So I gave him a tow to 17, then he gave me a tow to Turn Two. I think I arrived a bit too quick for my liking because I did miss Turn Two little bit.

“So I did gain and then I did lose a bit in Turn Two. Overall, I think it did help me a little bit. But when you are struggling the whole weekend and then finally it’s coming around, you have to look for these little advantages to try to stay ahead, and it worked out beautifully.”

Hulkenberg, who had again performed impressively to get Haas into Q3, told Sky F1: “Max and I have been helping each other out in Qualifying,” said Hulkenberg.

“He helped me out a few times in Q2 and I returned the favour. You need support sometimes.”

Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:14.746
2) Oscar Piasti McLaren +0.074
3) Lando Norris McLaren +0.091
4) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.224
5) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.487
6) George Russell Mercedes +0.488
7) Yuki Tsunoda RB +0.719
8) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.758
9) Daniel Ricciardo RB +0.928
10) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1.234
Knocked out in Q2
11) Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:15.706
12) Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:15.906
13) Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:15.992
14) Alex Albon Williams 1:16.200
15) Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:16.381
Knocked out in Q1
16) Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:16.626
17) Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:16.834
18) Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:16.854
19) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:16.917
20) Logan Sargeant Williams No time set

Sky Sports F1’s live Emilia Romagna GP schedule

Sunday May 19
7.30am: F3 Feature Race
9am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Emilia Romagna GP build-up
4pm: Chequered Flag: Emilia Romagna GP reaction
5pm: Ted’s Notebook
8pm: Indy 500 Qualifying

Formula 1 heads to Europe as Imola returns to the calendar following last year’s cancelled race. Watch the Emilia Romagna GP this weekend, with Sunday’s race at 2pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

Sourse: skysports.com

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