Skip to main content

Max Verstappen matched the late, great Ayrton Senna with his eighth consecutive Formula 1 pole position and he will line up at the front of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix grid at Imola.

This story is powered by Motorsport Week – for more reports from the world of motorsport, click here.

Verstappen recovered from a troubled Sunday to better McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in a sensational qualifying session. It was fitting then, that Verstappen matched Senna’s qualifying record, 30 years on at the circuit that tragically cost the legendary Brazilian his life.

The Tifosi’s gaze was fixated on Ferrari at Imola on Saturday with the Italian fans hopeful of a scarlet red car on pole. However, the stage was set for a strong challenge from the recently resurgent McLaren who went first and second fastest in FP3 on Saturday morning. Not to be counted out, Red Bull sought to break Ferrari’s and McLaren’s hearts after a disappointing Friday, and ultimately Verstappen succeded in that goal with a 1:14.746s lap-time, 0.074s faster than Piastri’s best effort.

One driver who wouldn’t be in contention as the session got underway was Fernando Alonso, whose car was still being repaired at the start of Q1 after his crash in FP3. But after a monumental effort, Aston Martin managed to get the Spaniard out on track with over 10 minutes of Q1 remaining. Alonso almost sought to undo all of Aston’s hard work getting out of shape on the exit of Tamburello and taking a little trip through the gravel as he sought to shake himself free from an early elimination.

Unfortunately for Alonso, he succumbed to his first Q1 exit of the year with the slowest time as he was called to pit before trying a final lap as Nico Hulkenberg remarkably went provisionally P1 before being displaced by Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at the end of the opening qualifying session. Joining Alonso in elimination was Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas, Williams’ Logan Sargeant, Zhou Guanyu and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen who justifiably ranted over team radio after being impeded by Piastri during the closing stages of Q1.

The impeding could prove costly for Piastri with the stewards summoning the Australian after the session concluded. Alonso was promoted one place up the order as Sargeant found his final lap deleted, dropping the American to last on the grid ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Moving into Q2 Leclerc set the fastest time after the initial runs with RB’s Yuki Tsunoda in an incredible second, just 0.03s off of the ultimate pace. The pecking order at the top was tight as just 0.079s covered the top four, which consisted of four different machines (Ferrari, RB Red Bull and McLaren).

As the seconds counted down, Daniel Ricciardo put Sergio Perez under threat of elimination and that threat was realised as the Mexican was resigned to a Q2 exit in P11, along with Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly. Perez was the latest victim of F1’s incredibly close field over a single lap, lapping just under four tenths from second-placed Leclerc in Q2.

Verstappen meanwhile made it two sessions out of two at the top of the timesheets, elevating him into fierce contention for pole. However, the top-10 shootout was poised to be the Dutchman’s toughest fight for pole yet in 2024, with McLaren and Ferrari looking every bit as quick as the Red Bull.

Verstappen’s initial benchmark was a 1:14.869s, with Norris seven hundredths in arrears after his first run. After improving to a time of 1:14.746s, nobody could match the Dutchman, although Piastri and Norris got close in second and third with less than a tenth separating the trio.

Struggling in Sector 1, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz could only finish fourth and fifth in front of the rampant Italian crowd, with George Russell leading the Mercedes charge in sixth. It was mightily impressive qualifying for RB, with the Faenza-based outfit impressing at the team’s home venue as Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo qualified seventh and ninth respectively.

Lewis Hamilton split the two RBs and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg made it to Q3 once again, finishing in 10th.