Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Imola, 2024

Verstappen matches Senna and Prost by beating McLarens to Imola pole

2024 Emilia-Romagna GP qualifying report

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Max Verstappen matched Ayrton Senna’s all-time record of eight consecutive pole positions by beating both McLaren drivers in Imola.

Despite struggling for balance with his Red Bull throughout practice, the world champion managed to take pole position by less than a tenth of a second.

Oscar Piastri took second just ahead of McLaren team mate Lando Norris. However, Piastri is facing an investigation and likely penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen in the opening phase of qualifying.


Teams were greeted with virtually identical conditions for the start of qualifying that they had for the three practice sessions, with sunny skies and warm ambient temperatures of around 23C. Following his crash in final practice, Fernando Alonso was able to participate in the session after Aston Martin completed repairs to his car.

Charles Leclerc set the early pace on medium compound tyres with a 1’16.463, two tenths of a second quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s first effort on softs. Lando Norris used soft tyres to go quicker than Leclerc with a 1’16.194, before Max Verstappen’s first effort saw him go to the top of the times with a 1’16.013.

Final practice pace-setter Oscar Piastri was the first driver in the 1’15s with his first push lap on soft tyres. Both Ferrari drivers opted to attempt a second flying lap on the same set of mediums they had used for their first attempts. Sainz improved to fourth, while Leclerc also improved to sixth.

Heading into the final minutes of the session, Alonso was the first driver at risk of elimination in 16th after running off the track at the exit of Tamburello and bouncing across the gravel. Both Haas drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, were also at right, with Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant alos in need of improving.

Alonso abandoned his final lap attempt and was eliminated in 19th on the grid. Sargeant improved but not by enough, but his final lap was deleted for a track limits violation, dropping him to last with no valid lap times. The Williams driver lost an earlier effort after going off at the exit of Villeneuve.

Magnussen was unable to follow his team mate Hulkenberg in Q2 after complaining that he was impeded by Piastri on his final attempt. The stewards announced Piastri would be investigated after qualifying. Hulkenberg’s progression eliminated Valtteri Bottas, who joined team mate Zhou back in the Sauber garage at the end of Q1.

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Q1 result

P. # Driver Team Model Time Gap
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB20 1’15.762
2 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-24 1’15.823 0.061
3 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-24 1’15.841 0.079
4 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB-Honda RBPT 01 1’15.894 0.132
5 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL38 1’15.915 0.153
6 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL38 1’15.940 0.178
7 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-24 1’16.015 0.253
8 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A524 1’16.015 0.253
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB-Honda RBPT 01 1’16.060 0.298
10 63 George Russell Mercedes W15 1’16.107 0.345
11 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A524 1’16.361 0.599
12 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB20 1’16.404 0.642
13 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR24 1’16.458 0.696
14 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW46 1’16.524 0.762
15 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W15 1’16.604 0.842
16 77 Valtteri Bottas Sauber-Ferrari C44 1’16.626 0.864
17 24 Zhou Guanyu Sauber-Ferrari C44 1’16.834 1.072
18 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari VF-24 1’16.854 1.092
19 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR24 1’16.917 1.155
20 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes FW46 No time

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With both Ferraris making it through into Q2 on the medium rubber, Sainz and Leclerc now had an extra set of soft tyres available to use for the final two phases of qualifying. They put them to use immediately as Leclerc used a fresh set to go quickest of all after the first Q2 runs with a 1’15.328.

While Verstappen was a few hundredths of a second slower than the Ferrari, he was not closest to Leclerc. That was Yuki Tsunoda, whose first run left him just 0.030s off the Ferrari, while the two McLarens of Piastri and Norris sat fourth and fifth.

As the field returned to the pits to prepare for their second laps, Williams took advantage of the clear track to give Alexander Albon an early second run on soft tyres. He improved on his position but only up to 12th, having equalled George Russell’s lap time in the Mercedes, but he was now sure not to progress into Q3.

Both McLarens, and Verstappen in the Red Bull, chose to run on used softs for their last attempts, while the Ferraris opted for fresh tyres. Both Mercedes of Russell and Lewis Hamilton used fresh tyres to improve into the top ten, with Sergio Perez falling into danger in 11th place.

Perez could not improve by enough on his final lap and missed out on the top ten by 0.015s, becoming the headline elimination from the second section of qualifying. Joining him out was Ocon in 12th ahead of Lance Stroll in 13th. Albon ended up in 14th by the end of the session with Pierre Gasly eliminated slowest in 15th.

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Q2 result

P. # Driver Team Model Time Gap
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB20 1’15.176
2 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-24 1’15.328 0.152
3 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB-Honda RBPT 01 1’15.358 0.182
4 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL38 1’15.371 0.195
5 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL38 1’15.407 0.231
6 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-24 1’15.512 0.336
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-24 1’15.569 0.393
8 63 George Russell Mercedes W15 1’15.671 0.495
9 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W15 1’15.677 0.501
10 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB-Honda RBPT 01 1’15.691 0.515
11 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB20 1’15.706 0.530
12 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A524 1’15.906 0.730
13 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR24 1’15.992 0.816
14 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW46 1’16.200 1.024
15 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A524 1’16.381 1.205

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After Verstappen had posted the fastest time of the weekend at the end of Q2, it looked like there would be a close battle for pole position heading into the final shootout.

Verstappen was one of the first over the line to complete this first flying lap attempt and he managed to get under the 1’15 barrier for the first time with a 1’14.869. Norris was closest to him with his first effort, posting a time 0.073s slower than the world champion, while Leclerc was just as far away from Norris in third than Norris was from Verstappen.

Piastri sat in fourth after his first lap was almost three tenths slower than Verstappen, with Sainz in fifth, half a second off the pace. The two Mercedes of Russell and Hamilton were split by Tsunoda in the RB, while his tam mate Ricciardo opted for just a single push lap at the end of the session.

The Ferraris were the first over the line to complete their final push laps, but while both Leclerc and Sainz improved their times, neither gained any positions from their final efforts. Verstappen benefited from a slipstream from Hulkenberg at the start of his lap and improved over the lap to a 1’14.746.

Only the McLaren drivers had the potential to upset the Red Bull driver, but while both Piastri and Norris got within a tenth of Verstappen, they could not beat him. Verstappen’s eighth consecutive pole position equalled that of Ayrton Senna’s all-time record and also Alain Prost’s record of seven consecutive poles to start a season.

Piastri beat team mate Norris to second but is facing a likely penalty for impeding Magnussen in Q1. Leclerc took fourth for Ferrari ahead of team mate Sainz, with Russell the highest-placed Mercedes in sixth.

Tsunoda split the Mercedes in seventh as Hamilton failed to match his team mate’s time. Ricciardo’s sole effort put his in ninth, with Hulkenberg the slowest of the top 10 drivers.

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Q3 result

P. # Driver Team Model Time Gap
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB20 1’14.746
2 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL38 1’14.820 0.074
3 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL38 1’14.837 0.091
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-24 1’14.970 0.224
5 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-24 1’15.233 0.487
6 63 George Russell Mercedes W15 1’15.234 0.488
7 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB-Honda RBPT 01 1’15.465 0.719
8 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W15 1’15.504 0.758
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB-Honda RBPT 01 1’15.674 0.928
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-24 1’15.980 1.234

2024 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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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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31 comments on “Verstappen matches Senna and Prost by beating McLarens to Imola pole”

  1. Max had was a bit lucky and he had a tow from Hulk in S1. He also didnt had a perfect lap, just like Lando and Piastri.

    1. Did he have a tow in both attempts if q3??

  2. Max is the difference.

    That Red Bull was a P5 car without him.

    1. No. Perez is useless. How many times did this happen last season. Was that all Max too? Or the fact the car is usually a second faster than anything.

      1. Mclarens where 1s a lap quicker, drivers under performed.

      2. so sad you fail to recognize and celebrate brilliance in the sport purely due to hatred for a specific driver


      3. He has a reason to complain about the main comment: the red bull car is still really strong and this was more an underperformance by perez than brilliance by verstappen, I think him and the mclaren drivers extracted more or less the max from the car, and there wasn’t a lot between them, if he hadn’t improved his first lap both piastri and norris would’ve been ahead of him.

    2. Have to agree. The car is quick no doubt, but Max is really the difference. Being a conventional GP weekend (no sprint) also helped to bring the setup changes as well.

    3. no, they didn’t have any kind of setup for the car and so they then prioritized Max and thats why Checo went out in Q2. Its a team game, and he’s the #1. The bigger the difference between #1 and #2 drivers is typically the degree to which the team has to struggle to find a setup for any one driver on the team. Checo isn’t that much slower than Max, but hes not #1 so he won’t be in the loop like Max is.

      That car is easily 1/2 second faster than the rest, but Macca probably have the fastest car, if you take the power unit out of the equation.

      1. Checo made the same setup changes, as he told in an interview. And moreover, the McLaren is currently the best car on track.

  3. Tsunoda moped the floor with Ricciardo the entire session just to be slightly better when it mattered the most.

    1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
      18th May 2024, 16:46

      Pretty much the story of Tsunoda – probably go wrong in the race as well.

  4. I think Verstappen had a huge tow from Hulk there. That one really looked like a big tow.

    1. Hulk gave him a tow, because Verstappen helped him with a tow in Q2 to get to Q3. And without that tow to Verstappen, Max wouldn’t have got pole.

    2. Yep, but only the first attempt. The second attempt he did all bu himself qnd shaved another 0,15 of the time.

      1. I think it was the other way around. The tow was on the final attempt.

    3. FreddyVictor
      19th May 2024, 7:26

      In Q3 VERs 2nd run sectors were -74ms -83ms +26ms (where a – is faster + is slower).
      So he gained most in sector 2, not 1 where he got a bit of a tow.

  5. So it seems the Red Bull car struggling in handling and balance ever since confirmed Adrian Newey’s quitting. Coincidence? Development halted?

    1. Coincidence

    2. Sabotage? Aliens? El Niño? Don’t go away, we’ll be back right after these messages.

    3. Just circumstances of the circuits.

      In Miami they were struggling with the tires and here in Imola they don’t seem to be able to ride the kerbs as well as the McLaren which is a crucial part of getting laptime in Imola.

    4. BMW P85 V10
      18th May 2024, 18:08

      I think it has more to do with tire choice.
      AT the moment thinks the Mclarens are genuinly faster, But Max still keeps himself in the mix. The race is going to be interesting.

  6. Max did great. Can be interesting tomorrow.

  7. Max needed to dig very deep for this one. And race pace a bit of an unknown because they changed quite a few things on the car after P3 to get to a faster qualy car. McLaren should be favorites… could this be another one for Norris now that he starts second?!

  8. I find it amusing and frustrating that we got articles often articles and podcasts talking about how all the upgrades will put a stop to max and redbull. I rolled my eyes at it all and here we are again. I must admit I was lured into the slim chance of hope they were right but alas…

  9. Silly me thought we had a pole fight this weekend. But I. Reality it’s 2014-2020 again. 1st driver in faster car struggles through practice fooling everyone that it’s difficult for him. Come qualifying where it matters the most he produces a pole lap and proceeds to win the race next day..

    1. *In reality..

    2. Were there a lot of qualifying sessions in that period where the top 3 were within 1 tenth of a second? Not saying anything about the race yet, but qualifying is very close lately. In 2014-2020 the difference was that mercedes were usually 3-5 tenths up.

      1. Yes, was thinking the same, this was a very competitive quali, in q1 we even had 5 drivers within exactly 1 tenth of a second, with 3 of those drivers within 2 milliseconds and 2 of them with the same exact time to the last millisecond!

        In q3 it looks like only mclaren could really compete, but indeed, anything less than 1 tenth is considered close, it wasn’t an easy quali at all for verstappen.

        1. Exactly, it was competitive, at which point, yes it is Verstappen who came out in the end and that might seem business as usual since we’ve seen that so often over the last few years, but really, it shows him and his team doing a great job, aided perhaps by a little luck, to be able to get that lap.

          That’s the sort of things that I find interesting to see, driver and team coming together to beat their competition. The issue with dominance that makes it unwanted is that we can’t really see whether they have done a great job, or just have a much faster car, very different from where Red Bull at the moment seems to be, which is great for the sport.

  10. Good job by verstappen getting an important pole for him, this one wasn’t easy with mclaren’s speed, and by important I mean matching the record of poles at the start of a season and overall consecutive poles.

    Next one will also be important to try and beat these records.

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