F1 Imola GP: Verstappen takes pole from Piastri as Ferrari disappoints

Having struggled in all three practice sessions so far at the Emilia-Romagna race, Verstappen hailed Red Bull’s pre-qualifying set-up changes for “feeling a bit better and I could push a bit”.

“This track is unbelievable,” Verstappen added. “And to be on the limit here, close to the gravel – I touched the gravel in the last corner – I’m still pumping. The adrenaline is very high.”

Verstappen needed late efforts to set his best times in the opening two parts of qualifying, but led from the off in Q3 – his first run a 1m14.869s ahead of Norris and Charles Leclerc.

The Ferrari drivers then headed the pack on the final efforts, where Leclerc could not recover enough time from missing his personal best in the first sector and stayed third.

Behind, Verstappen blitzed to purple sectors in the first two thirds of the lap but a wobble through the final corner – Rivazza 2 – meant he was vulnerable even as he improved the top time to a 1m14.746s.

Norris also improved but paid the price for a slower middle sector than he had managed on his opening go in Q3, with Piastri then stealing ahead of his team-mate and Leclerc as he beat Verstappen in the final sector to end up 0.074s adrift.

But Piastri faces a post-session investigation for appearing to impede Kevin Magnussen late in Q1.

Behind the frontrunners came Carlos Sainz, George Russell and Yuki Tsunoda, who had shone with a rapid Q2 time before fading from the lead fight.

Next came Lewis Hamilton in eighth, Daniel Ricciardo in ninth and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

Verstappen topped Q2 ahead of Leclerc, where Sergio Perez was the biggest faller in the other Red Bull despite setting his best time at the end of the middle segment.

Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly were also eliminated at this stage.

In Q1, which Verstappen led also ahead of Leclerc when the Ferraris progressed on the mediums, last-gasp personal bests were not enough to save Valtteri Bottas, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu in 16th-18th.

Magnussen ended up 19th ahead of Fernando Alonso, who missed the start of the opening segment as Aston Martin worked to repair the car he had damaged during his FP3 crash.

But the Spaniard abandoned his final effort as he failed to improve on his personal best late on having made a mistake and gone through the Tamburello exit gravel on his second attempt.

Sargeant later got his lap time deleted and was demoted to the bottom of the grid.

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