Verstappen takes pole in a chaotic qualifying session of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Max Verstappen

After a chaotic qualifying session at Imola, Max Verstappen will start Saturday’s sprint race from pole position.

The Qualifying session for Saturday’s Sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was interrupted multiple times following five red flags. Max Verstappen will start from pole position as Ferrari’s home race will see Charles Leclerc start from second.

Verstappen overcame the wet conditions to take pole at Ferrari’s home track, ensuring that the Dutchman will start in the best possible position for the season’s opening Sprint race.

The biggest surprise of the session occurred when both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers failed to make it out of Qualifying 2, which was hampered by rain and red flags.

Despite a wet Free Practice 1 and a 40% probability of rain during Qualifying, all twenty cars left the pits as quickly as possible, with a surprising dry line remaining around the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit.

However, not all cars started on the soft tyres, with several opting to start on the Intermediates after the heavy rain that occurred overnight and early Friday morning.

Lewis Hamilton was one of the few drivers to venture out into the Intermediates, but he quickly informed his team that the line was dry as both Mercedes drivers had terrible porpoising.

It was not long before Alex Albon’s rear-right tyre blew in dramatic manner following what seemed to be a combustion of heat due to too much friction, and the session was quickly red-flagged. Parts of his FW44, including the brake line, were strewn across the track forcing him to retire.

When the session resumed, timings fell as the track conditions continued to change, as the fast drivers in FP1 remained at the top of the timesheets.

Nicholas Latifi, on the other hand, span on his out-lap, adding to a disastrous qualifying for Williams Racing. With only two minutes remaining to the end of Q1, both Mercedes drivers were in the bottom five and on the verge of being knocked out of Qualifying 1. Leclerc took the lead at the start, followed by Verstappen and Sainz.

Both George Russell and Hamilton barely made it out of the session, with Hamilton edging out Yuki Tsunoda by just 0.004s. Both Scuderia AlphaTauri cars, as well as both Williams and, unexpectedly, Esteban Ocon, failed to make the cut at their home Grand Prix.

In Q2, all of the remaining cars were fast to get out on the track, with Ferrari estimating that each driver would only have a few timed laps on the soft tyre before the rain arrived. As everyone pushed as hard as they could, menacing dark clouds hung above the circuit.

On his second push-lap, though, Sainz pushed too hard, crashing into the barrier at the final circuit on what would have been a fantastic lap. Sainz, who had been given a new two-year contract prior to the weekend, had made it into the top ten, but was unable to compete due to the crash, which ended his session. The second red flag of the afternoon was raised as a result of the crash, just as the rain began falling.

Due to the heavy rain, soft tyres were not an option, essentially bringing Qualifying 2 to a close. Both Mercedes were eliminated from Qualifying after the one-push-lap second session, leaving them with a lot of work to do in the Sprint race on Saturday. It’s the first time since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix that Mercedes hasn’t had a car in Qualifying 3.

Verstappen dominated the second session ahead of Sainz and Lando Norris, with Leclerc finishing fifth. After a dismal Australian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel performed admirably to make it into the final session.

The remaining nine drivers exited the pits as the final session began, and the rain appeared to stop, indicating that the quickest times of the session would likely come right at the end, adding to the excitement.

The session was swiftly forced to a halt, though, when Kevin Magnussen ran out at Turn 10 and the third red flag of Qualifying was flown. The Danish driver avoided hitting the wall and was able to return to the garage with his Haas, ready for the rest of the final Qualifying session.

When the final session resumed, it was Leclerc who established the pace, with Verstappen trailing by just +0.020s.

Despite severely pushing off for Valtteri Bottas’ stricken C42 on the run down to the penultimate circuit, the Dutchman surged ahead of the championship leader on his next lap. The fourth red flag of Qualifying was brought out just as Verstappen crossed the line to recover Bottas’ car.

With only three minutes left on the clock and all eight remaining cars in the pits, Verstappen led by over eight tenths of a second as the rain began to pour heavily once more.

The track had become much too wet for any driver to improve when the lights turned green again, thus Verstappen will start from pole position in Saturday’s Sprint race.

After a spectacular Qualifying session, Leclerc lines up in front of the Tifosi with Verstappen in second and Norris in third, despite the McLaren F1 Team driver bringing out the sixth red flag of the session with one minute remaining.

Magnussen qualified fourth, followed by Fernando Alonso in five, Daniel Ricciardo in sixth, Sergio Pérez in a disappointing seventh, Bottas in eighth, and Sebastian Vettel in ninth. Sainz will start from the tenth position.

Full Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Qualifying Results:

1Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing1m19.295s1m18.793s1m27.999s
2Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1m18.796s1m19.584s1m28.778s
3Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1m20.168s1m19.294s1m29.131s
4Kevin MagnussenDENHaas F1 Team1m20.147s1m19.902s1m29.164s
5Fernando AlonsoESPBWT Alpine F1 Team1m20.198s1m19.595s1m29.202s
6Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team1m19.980s1m20.031s1m29.742s
7Sergio PerezMEXOracle Bull Racing1m19.773s1m19.296s1m29.808s
8Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen1m20.419s1m20.192s1m30.439s
9Sebastian VettelGERAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m20.364s1m19.957s1m31.062s
10Carlos Sainz JrESPScuderia Ferrari1m19.305s1m18.990sNo Time Set
11George RussellGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team1m20.383s1m20.757s 
12Mick SchumacherGERHaas F1 Team1m20.422s1m20.916s 
13Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team1m20.470s1m21.138s 
14Guanyu ZhouCHNAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen1m19.730s1m21.434s 
15Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m20.342s1m28.119s 
16Yuki TsunodaJPNScuderia AlphaTauri1m20.474s  
17Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri1m20.732s  
18Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing1m21.971s  
19Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1m22.338s  
20Alexander AlbonTHAWilliams RacingNo Time Set

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