Verstappen had no response for Norris’ pace at Imola

Max Verstappen admits he could go no quicker as Lando Norris upped the pace late in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, as he just held on to win by 0.7s.

Norris was over 7s behind race leader Verstappen at one stage in the middle of the race, but in the second half of the second stint, he started to reel in the Red Bull. Verstappen says his car was unable to look after its tires and that left him with little grip to respond, seeing Norris close in at a rate that he could not control as he had been pushing throughout the race.

“On the mediums, I think it was very good,” Verstappen said. “I didn’t expect that kind of pace after what we did so far in the weekend, but we could somehow keep the balance together, so that felt really nice.


“Then as soon as I swapped to the hard tires, it was definitely… I mean, maybe not the first five to 10 laps, but after that I was like, ‘I’m not sure I can bring this to the end,’ because the tires just fell out of the operating window and it was just like driving on ice — really snappy and you can feel when the tires are not gripping up anymore.

“Like Turn 7, I almost ended up in the grandstand for my feeling, at some point. Just very difficult, really weird lines that I had to take. Those last 10 laps I was really trying to survive with the tires and then suddenly Lando really picked up pace. I could see him, of course, catch up. I was not sure if I could keep him behind, but I was just trying to do the best I could, pushing as hard as I could with the grip that I had. Luckily it was just enough laps.

“As soon as it was half a second a lap, I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s a lot.’ But the other hand, you can’t do anything about it, so I was just trying to do my pace. You cannot suddenly try and force a half a second out of it when you don’t have the balance.

“I was just trying to really not make mistakes, really try to drive around the balance issues that I had and be quick on the straight. That’s basically what I think helped me a bit at the end. Also, with the rear wing that we had, we were quite fast on the straight and that probably helped a bit in the last few laps to defend.”

Another issue Verstappen had to deal with revolved around track limits, as he found himself receiving a black and white flag early in the race for three infringements and on the verge of a time penalty.

“They updated me, of course, with the track limits, to just be a bit more careful from that point onwards,” he said. “But the problem was also, in the beginning, I was understeering a lot on the medium, and that was pushing me a bit off sometimes if I missed the apex. So after that, on the hard tires, I was just leaving a bit more margin.

“Of course, the last few laps when Lando was catching me it was a bit harder because I had to naturally really use the track as much as I could. We stayed within the lines, but definitely it does require then a bit more focus, of course. Every exit, you have to be really sure what you’re doing.”

Verstappen took pole position on Saturday despite a challenging set of practice sessions where Red Bull looked in trouble, and he says that makes the final result even more satisfying even if it was not a comfortable victory.

“We changed a lot on the car,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of information going into the race. Maybe that’s why on the hard tires it was a bit more difficult for us, but I think from where we started the weekend to now, I mean we can be incredibly pleased with the pole and the win, so I will take that.”

Story originally appeared on Racer