Max Verstappen Back on Winning Track with F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Triumph

imola grand prix
Verstappen Holds off Norris for F1 Win in Italypicture alliance - Getty Images

World Champion Max Verstappen recorded the 59th Formula 1 victory of his career at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday at Imola, Italy, fending off a late surge from Lando Norris, to extend his margin at the top of the driver standings.

Autoweek rounds up the key points from Sunday’s spectacle at Imola.

Verstappen Holds off Norris

Max Verstappen spent the Imola race weekend embarking on a side quest, participating in stints for his Team Redline squad, as they contested the virtual Nürburgring 24 Hours overnight Saturday into Sunday.

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Max Verstappen walked away a winner for the 59th time in his Formula 1 career.Clive Rose - Getty Images

Verstappen was part of that victorious team and then went back to the day job, driving the Red Bull Racing RB20 around the picturesque Imola circuit. Verstappen converted pole position into victory but it was far from a straightforward win after the World Champion struggled for pace throughout practice on Friday.


Verstappen claimed a pole position that he described as among his best, which was critical at a narrow circuit which ranks among the hardest at which to overtake, given there is only one long full-throttle section of note.

Verstappen opened a slender advantage through the first stint on Medium tires, but after the mid-race pit stop for Hard tires second-placed Lando Norris began whittling away Verstappen’s six-second advantage. At times, Norris took almost a second per lap out of the Red Bull, setting up a grandstand finish to conclude what had been an insipid race. But Verstappen held on, the margin at the end of 63 green flag laps just seven-tenths of a second, for win five of the campaign.

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Max Verstappen kept challenger Lando Norris at arm’s length throughout the 63-lap race.Lars Baron - Getty Images

“On the Hard tires it was just a bit more difficult to manage,” said Verstappen. “Especially the last 10-15 laps I had no grip anymore, I was really sliding a lot. I saw Lando closing in, so yeah, the last 10 laps I was just flat out. It’s very difficult when the tires aren’t working anymore, and you have to go flat out. So I couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily we didn’t, and I’m super happy of course to win here today.”

Norris came up agonizingly short of making it back-to-back race victories.

“It hurts me to say, but one or two more laps and I think I would have had him,” said Norris. “It’s tough. A shame, I fought hard right until the very last lap. I just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning. He was much better in the first stint. And obviously in the second stint we were stronger. But yeah, it just was a tough first half and a much better second half. And one or two more laps would have been beautiful, but just not today.”

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc completed the podium with a third-place finish.James Sutton - Formula 1 - Getty Images

Ferrari Not Quite in the Lead Scrap

Ferrari was one of several teams that introduced an upgrade package at Imola but the squad fell short of challenging for victory. Charles Leclerc converted third on the grid into the same result at the checkered flag, though was unable to keep pace with the surging Norris in the second stint, while Carlos Sainz started fourth but was undercut by Oscar Piastri, dropping to fifth.

“It’s always very special to be on the podium here in Imola,” said Leclerc. “However, obviously, I’m never satisfied with a P3. You always want to be on the top step of the podium, but considering everything, I think we have lost mostly what could have been yesterday in qualifying, and this we will analyze. But today in the race I think we were all very, very close, and it was all about who was pushing when exactly in the race.”

Leclerc believes it was “not the best track to judge the upgrades” given the importance of kerb riding at Imola, but added that “the good thing is that everything we expected from those upgrades, we had it in terms of data. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, which is always a good thing.

“When you only have a tenth in between Red Bull, McLaren and ourselves, we need to do everything perfect. And the third place yesterday cost us maybe a better result in the race.”

Sainz admitted he “cannot be happy” after a tough race and explained that “I need to review it with the team to understand why I’ve not been comfortable with the car both in qualifying and the race pace-wise.”

Leclerc in particular will want to get the Ferrari updates working more effectively in Monaco, his home grand prix, next weekend.

Mercedes Remains in No Man's Land

Mercedes was another team to bring some updates to Imola but the team cautioned that it would be a few races before the full impact was understood and exploited. And thus the one-time steamroller of an operation remained firmly fourth-best at Imola.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton qualified in sixth and eighth respectively, and went on to finish sixth and seventh in the race, with Hamilton jumping ahead of Russell after the younger Briton made a second pit stop to have a successful tilt at the fastest lap. Hamilton also had a wide moment through the gravel at the Acque Minerali curve, losing five seconds, but it made no difference to the result.

“We've taken a small step forward this weekend and we have improved,” said Hamilton. “Unfortunately, that is slightly masked by the step forward others such as McLaren and Ferrari have taken. We will keep pushing to bring more updates that can add performance. Until then, we will make sure we are scoring as many points as we can.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who now believes the squad has set the right course with the W15, was sanguine about the situation.

“We still have a lot of work to do and of course, we are all frustrated finishing P6 and P7,” said Wolff. “There is more to come though, and it is all about making incremental gains. These are what we need to keep delivering if we are to get ourselves in the fight with the three teams ahead of us.”

Perez has Weakest Race of Season

Contract time is fast approaching and Sergio Perez endured his weakest weekend of the campaign.

After three runner-up positions from the first four grands prix Perez followed up fourth in Miami with a low-key eighth at Imola, the catalyst for the result being his one-lap struggles through qualifying. Perez was dumped out in Q2, leaving from 11th on the grid, and he ran the alternate Hard/Medium strategy but could climb to only eighth at a circuit where passing places are at a premium. He also went wide into the gravel at Rivazza corner, losing a few seconds, but that made no difference to his result.

The outcome means that Perez has dropped from second to third in the championship, behind Leclerc, for the first time this season.

“I think we just had a one-off even though the weekend has been strong all the way to qualify, unfortunately we just didn't manage to get a proper qualifying,” said Perez. “I think pretty much it was the maximum we could have achieved, even where we started.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner also backed his driver to bounce back quickly.

“I think it’s just a blip,” said Horner. “He’s always gone well at Monaco, so we will see"


F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

at Imola, Italy

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:25:25.252.63 laps

  2. Lando Norris. McLaren, +0.725 second

  3. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +7.916

  4. Oscar Piastri, McLaren, +14.132

  5. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +22.325

  6. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +35.104

  7. George Russell, Mercedes, +47.154

  8. Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +54.776

  9. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +1:19.556s0

  10. Yuki Tsunoda, RB, +1 lap

  11. Nico Hulkenberg, +1 lap

  12. Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +1 lap

  13. Daniel Ricciardo, RB. +1 lap

  14. Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +1 lap

  15. Zhou Guanyu, Kick Sauber, +1 lap

  16. Pierre Gasly, Alpine, +1 lap

  17. Logan Sargeant, Williams, +1 lap

  18. Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber, +1 lap

  19. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, +1 lap

  20. Alexander Albon, Williams, +52 laps