Max Verstappen saves Imola victory by tenths

Lando Norris made the last ten laps in Imola exciting again. Before that, Max Verstappen had controlled the race throughout, but the McLaren pace increased late on. Norris made it into the DRS window – but only on the last lap. Verstappen saved 0.725 seconds over the line. For Nico Hülkenberg it was just not enough to get the last point.

The winner: After poor training, Verstappen started the race from pole, but with uncertainty about his pace. With a good start, he laid an important foundation. Coming back from the first corner as the leader, he was able to control the pace in the fresh air. He stopped the last Norris attack with the last bit of tire performance.

The podium: Norris had already had to fend off a spurt from Charles Leclerc after the pit stop. Leclerc eventually fell back. Oscar Piastri, who had passed Carlos Sainz to P4 thanks to his strategy, was only able to put Leclerc under pressure briefly after the pit stop, but then played no role in the podium fight.

The result: The Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton drove a lonely race. Apart from a Hamilton outing, there was nothing to report. Hamilton finished sixth because Mercedes brought Russell into the pits again for the fastest lap. This put him seventh. Sergio Perez fought his way past the rest of the midfield with an alternative strategy. Mercedes was out of reach for him. Lance Stroll also used an alternative strategy, for P9. Yuki Tsunoda strategically defeated Nico Hülkenberg in the battle for the last point.

The highlights from the Formula 1 race in Imola

  • Surprising Verstappen collapse
  • Norris-Pace arrives too late
  • Ferrari with update not at McLaren level
  • Tsunoda strong again

Formula 1 – World Cup status 2024: Norris & McLaren are catching up

The World Cup table: Of course, Max Verstappen remains at the front. However, with another strong McLaren race, the pressure on Ferrari and Sergio Perez is growing. Norris is now only six points behind Perez, who is third in the World Cup. He loses his second place to Leclerc with his weak performance.

In the constructors’ championship, McLaren scored the most points in Imola. But only one more than Red Bull and five more than Ferrari. This means they remain in third place by a respectable margin. We still need a lot of work moving forward. With another point, the Racing Bulls and Yuki Tsunoda continue to move slightly ahead of Haas.

Before the start: After a disastrous Saturday, Aston Martin rebuilt Fernando Alonso’s suspension setup overnight, so he had to start from the pits. Oscar Piastri slipped from 2nd to 5th on the grid due to disability in qualifying. With 25 degrees air temperature and 44 degrees track temperature with light clouds and a light wind from the southeast, the weather was very similar to qualifying. Almost everyone started on Medium. Only Alonso and Pierre Gasly relied on soft. Hard chose Sergio Perez, Guanyu Zhou and Logan Sargeant.

Start in Imola: Verstappen leaves McLaren & Ferrari no chance

Despite the long route to the first corner, it was a very disciplined start to the race. Verstappen, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz and Piastri came back from the first lap unchanged, followed by the two Mercedes and Nico Hülkenberg. Yuki Tsunoda slipped two places back to ninth, while Sergio Perez moved past Daniel Ricciardo to tenth.

The leading trio set the tone in the first few laps. After ten laps, Norris and Leclerc were no longer able to match Verstappen’s pace and began to fall back synchronously. Sainz had bigger problems. He lost touch with Leclerc from lap seven onwards and from then on had a stronger Oscar Piastri in the DRS window.

At the front of the field, Lando Norris made his pit stops on lap 23. That put him briefly behind Sergio Perez, who was still on the old starting tires. But after just one lap he was able to work his way past the Red Bull with DRS and the tire advantage. Ferrari initially stayed out, perhaps hoping for more problems for Norris.

McLaren took advantage of this to bring Piastri into the pits on lap 24. Leclerc’s reaction stop a lap later cost him time relative to both McLarens. He was now three seconds behind Norris, and had Piastri in his DRS window. Sainz stayed out until lap 28. He had lost his fourth place to Piastri and was now in fifth place in the no man’s land between Piastri and Russell.

The Mercedes also stopped during the same period. Russell was even first in the leading group, which meant he got closer to Sainz, but still didn’t have the pace of the Ferrari. Hamilton tried to stay out longer, but braked on lap 26 in the second part of Acque Minerale and came to a stop two laps later.

The hard tires initially caused problems for Norris in the last third of the race, who then came under pressure from Leclerc. But Leclerc couldn’t really attack, and ten laps before the end the picture was reversed. Norris was suddenly faster – then also faster than Verstappen. This made Red Bull even more nervous, as Verstappen had already exceeded the track limits three times early on.

The fourth violation would result in a five-second penalty. In the last ten laps, Verstappen’s tires were on top of that. Norris caught up quickly at times, both drivers pushing at the limit. But it was enough for Verstappen. In the end it was 0.725 seconds that he saved from Norris.

Tsunoda outmaneuvers Hülkenberg with strategy

In the chasing field, Nico Hülkenberg led the queue after his strong start. The Racing Bulls strategically outmaneuvered Haas. Tsunoda stopped on lap 13, executed a perfect undercut and passed Hülkenberg. Behind him followed Ricciardo – and then Bottas, who had already stopped on lap 9 and thus performed a huge undercut. But now I had to drive through it with the hard tires for ages.

This group was shaken up mid-race by Sergio Perez, who started on hard and only switched to medium late on. With these fresh tires he easily beat Hülkenberg and Tsunoda within a few laps. But he couldn’t go further than P8.

Lance Stroll tried the same tactic, with equal success. This meant that Tsunoda had fallen back to tenth place and Hülkenberg dropped out of the points. Kevin Magnussen also used an alternative strategy to catch up and caught up with Hülkenberg. Ricciardo, Ocon, Zhou, Gasly, Sargeand and Bottas followed behind.

The problem-plagued people ended up at the back. After his soft start, Fernando Alonso drove a two-stop strategy. Alex Albon’s right front wheel was not tightened properly during his first pit stop. Albon had to stop again and was given a 10-second stop-and-go, but finally gave up shortly before the end.

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