Norris charge not enough to deny Verstappen victory at Imola

Max Verstappen saw off a late challenge from Lando Norris to secure victory at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

Verstappen controlled the 63-lap race right up until the final 10 laps, when his hard tires began to expire. Norris, having appeared resigned to a runner-up finish, upped his pace and found his McLaren had plenty more to give.

The Englishman closed from a 6s deficit to less than 2s with seven laps to run, and on the penultimate tour he was edging into DRS range for a final-lap lunge.

But he had to push hard on his ageing tires to close the final tenths – so hard that he endured a lairy snap exiting the Villeneuve chicane. That cost him crucial momentum that left him just outside DRS range down the front straight at the start of the final lap, depriving him of a vital weapon in his attempt to snatch victory.


It was enough for Verstappen to hold on for a hard-fought fifth triumph of the season by just 0.725s.

“The whole race I had to push flat-out to try and make a gap initially,” he said. “I think on the medium tires we were quite strong; on the hard tire it was just a bit more difficult to manage.

“In the last stint, the last 15 laps I had no more grip, I was sliding a lot.

“I couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily we didn’t. I’m super happy to win here today.”

Norris was understandably disappointed to fall short of victory, though he said he was pleased to prove that McLaren had joined the leading group of teams capable of challenging for regular grand prix wins.

“It hurst me to say, but one or two more laps and I think I would’ve had him,” he said. “A shame.

“I fought hard right until the very last lap but just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning.

“One or two more laps would’ve been beautiful, but not today.”

Charles Leclerc completed the podium in third, his Ferrari lacking the pace to follow the leading two cars after being beaten to the early pit stop by a canny McLaren, but the Monegasque driver said he was satisfied Ferrari had made a step forward with its Imola upgrade package.

“Today we didn’t quite make it,” he said. “[McLaren] were incredible quick.

“All in all I think the race pace today was quite strong.

“It’s looking good for the rest of the season. It’s incredible anyway to be on the podium with all the tifosi here in Imola.”

Oscar Piastri was a beneficiary of McLaren’s astute tactics, being brought in for a pit stop on lap 23 to jump Carlos Sainz for fourth place – though it was of limited comfort for the Australian, who could have been in Norris’s place had he not been penalized three grid places for impeding in qualifying.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell spent the race engaged in a largely private duel, finishing sixth and seventh but 13s behind the leading group.

Russell scored a consolation point for fastest lap after a late bit stop for medium tires.

Sergio Perez made a lukewarm recovery from 11th on the grid up to eighth after a long opening stint on the hard tire that included a clumsy trip through the gravel at Rivazza.

Lance Stroll scored a pair of points for Aston Martin in ninth, up from 13th, ahead of an excellent Yuki Tsunoda, who held on for the final point after a 50-lap closing stint on the hard tire.

Haas teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen beat Daniel Ricciardo to the best of the non-scoring positions, with Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Pierre Gasly, Logan Sargeant, Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso completing the 19 finishers.

Alex Albon was the race’s only retirement after serving a penalty for being released from pit lane without all four tires securely attached.


Story originally appeared on Racer