Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Imola, 2024

Verstappen credits “tow buddy” Hulkenberg for slipstream on pole lap

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen said getting a slipstream along the pit straight from Nico Hulkenberg “worked out beautifully” for him as he took pole position.

The championship leader secured pole for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix by less than a tenth of a second from Lando Norris. Oscar Piastri, who originally qualified second, was later penalised.

Verstappen took pole with his final flying lap at the end of Q3. He let Hulkenberg through on his out-lap, then gained a slipstream along the pit straight by following the Haas, who was backing off.

Timing data showed that Verstappen hit a top speed of 340kph at the end of the straight before braking for the Tamburello chicane – around 8kph faster than the two McLaren drivers – which allowed the Red Bull driver to gain an advantage of more than a tenth on both his rivals before the first corner.

Verstappen admitted he had gained an advantage by following the Haas, but that it had been mutually beneficial for him and Hulkenberg.

“We were tow buddies out there in Q2 already, Q3,” Verstappen explained. “I gave him a tow to [turn] 17, then he gave me a tow to turn two [Tamburello].

“I think I did arrive a bit too quick for my liking because I did miss turn two a little bit. So I did gain, 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 and stay ahead. And it worked out beautifully.”

After the problems he had with the balance of his car on the opening day of practice, Verstappen admitted he had not expected to be fighting for pole position until his early runs in qualifying.

“We kept on working,” he said. “Even this morning it was not good.

“We just kept on trying to improve the balance of the car because it was shifting a bit all over the place yesterday and this morning. I honestly went into qualifying and I was like ‘well, if we can get a top five, I would be happy’ because this weekend has been really difficult. There was really no reference going into qualifying.

“But it felt straight away a little better. I felt more comfortable. I could attack corners finally a bit more and it all started to come together and it really came together in Q3.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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