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Verstappen comes good to claim Imola pole


If the numerous incidents and near misses earlier weren't enough to warn that Imola remains a circuit that bites back... hard, the pile-up at the start of the F2 Sprint should have certainly rammed the message home.

We know from their antics in qualifying in recent years that some drivers are a little lacking in common sense, so quite what Race Control expected when it allowed the remaining two minutes of practice to proceed, after the Perez red flag, God alone knows.

And with this in mind one has to have a certain amount of dread ahead of Q1 this afternoon and indeed the start tomorrow.

Due to the truncated session - which also only saw four drivers on track for the opening 15 minutes - the true pecking order remains a mystery, suffice to say that McLaren and Ferrari, and to a lesser extent Mercedes, are breathing hard down Red Bull's neck.

Of course, over the years we have seen the Austrian team, like its rivals, has certain bogey tracks and this could be one of them, then again are we really prepared to write off the world champion and his team.

All in all, the anticipated silliness of Q1 aside, this could be a thrilling session with a few surprises, and here, unlike some other tracks we could mention, a mixed up grid will lead to an entertaining race.

In the moments before the start of the Q1 work continues on Alonso's car, while there is a lot of activity in Piastri's garage also.

Air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees. It is bright, sunny and still quite windy.

The lights go green and Gasly leads the way, followed by Ocon, Zhou, Sargeant and Hulkenberg.

As more drivers emerge it is softs all round, as one would expect, though Russell has opted for mediums, as have the Ferrari pair.

Gasly gets things going with a 17.284 only for his teammate to respond with a 16.645. Sargeant spits the Alpines with a 17.188.

Russell pits without posting a time, though the similarly shod Ferrari pair continue.

Sargeant has his time deleted.

Hamilton goes second with a 16.719, while a 16.925 sees Stroll go third.

Sainz can only manage fourth (16.975), however his teammate posts 16.463 to go top.

Quickest in the opening sector, Albon makes a mistake in the second Rivazza and can only manage tenth.

Norris also makes a mistake in the second Rivazza which suggests that it is the wind that is causing problems. Nonetheless, the Miami winner goes quickest with a 16.194.

A 19.194 sees Perez go second while Alonso goes sixth with a 16.917.

Quickest in S2 - where was having problems yesterday - Verstappen goes quickest with a 16.013.

As Albon has his time deleted, Piastri crosses the line at 15.940 to go top.

Russell improves to third with a 16.107 as Gasly goes quickest in S2.

Sainz posts a 16.015 to go third, as Gasly goes fourth and Leclerc fifth (16.097).

Hamilton improves his time (16.604) but remains twelfth.

Still no time from the Williams pair who have both had their times deleted.

A 15.915 sees Norris go quickest as Alonso runs wide and through the gravel on the approach to the Variante Villeneuve.

With 4:40 remaining only the Williams pair are on track as the rest of the field pit for fresh rubber.

Albon goes twelfth with a 16.524 as Alonso drops into the danger zone. Indeed, the Spaniard is clearly struggling for front grip.

Zhou can only manage 17th as Hulkenberg goes quickest in S2. The German crosses the line at 15.841 to go top.

Alonso pits and will therefore not make it out of Q1, while Verstappen reclaims the top spot with a 15.762.

Ricciardo goes eighth and his teammate third, while Hamilton can only manage 15th.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Leclerc, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda, Norris, Piastri, Sainz, Gasly, Ricciardo and Russell.

We lose Bottas, Sargeant, Zhou, Magnussen and Alonso.

Piastri and Magnussen are to be investigated for impeding at Turn 2.

"Where is everyone," asks Hamilton as he is the only driver keen to get to work in Q2. He is subsequently joined by his teammate, Albon and... some time later, the Bulls.

Russell crosses the line at 16.200 however Hamilton responds with a 16.197.

Albon goes third with a 16.921, but is demoted when Verstappen bangs in a 15.386, despite a minor off in the second Rivazza.

Perez goes second and Hulkenberg third.

Stroll goes sixth with a 16.906, but is demoted by the alpine pair and then Sainz, who goes second (15.702), Piastri (15.407) and Leclerc (15.328).

A 15.476 sees Norris go fourth only for the Miami winner to be demoted when Tsunoda goes second with a 15.358.

Albon heads out for the final assault, the Williams driver enjoying a totally clear track.

In clear air, Albon improves to twelfth with a 16.200, exactly the same time as Russell. However, he has time for a second flying lap.

Lots of PBs in the opening sector as all bar Tsunoda are on track. Ocon goes eighth, while his teammate fails to improve on fourteenth.

Russell goes sixth and Hamilton seventh, while Hulkenberg posts a 15.569 to demote both of them.

Ricciardo goes ninth, as Stroll fails to improve and misses the cut.

Sainz goes sixth and Norris third, while Verstappen, who appeared to abort his lap, goes quickest with a 15.176.

On the other hand, Perez can only manage eleventh (15.706), having lost time at the same chicane he crashed at earlier today.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Leclerc, Tsunoda, Norris, Piastri, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Russell, Hamilton and Ricciardo.

We lose Perez, Ocon, Stroll, Albon and Gasly.

"Both teams worked flat out to put my car ready for qualifying so thank you to everyone," says Alonso. "I was fuelled for the whole of qualifying, I set my lap on the first attempt and on the last attempt when the car was lighter I had to stop with an issue on the car.

"They told me to box and I said sure, I asked what was the problem and still unknown. I think it will be a very painful race starting from the back, Imola is the second hardest race to overtake after Monaco."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Imola here.


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1. Posted by Chester, 18/05/2024 19:21

"Tough for me to say because I am an Alonso fan, but I think the old guys, Alonso and Hamilton, have lost a step.

Brilliant for Verstappen. He appeared to drag his car to pole. Stunning"

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