Formula 1

Verstappen on Pole in Frequently Red Flagged Qualifying

4 Mins read
Credit: Clive Mason/ Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen will start from pole position for Saturday’s Sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with Qualifying being halted several times after five red flags. Charles Leclerc will start from second at Scuderia Ferrari’s home race, whilst Carlos Sainz Jr was left frustrated after crashing in Qualifying 2.

Verstappen mastered the wet conditions to claim pole at Ferrari’s home, the Dutchman will start in the optimum position for the first Sprint race of the season. The shock of the session came as both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers failed to make it out of Qualifying 2, after rain and red flags played havoc throughout the session.

Qualifying 1:

After no dry running in Free Practice 1 and a forty percent chance of further rain during Qualifying, all twenty cars exited the pits as soon as possible, whilst a surprising dry line remained around the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit. Not all cars began on the soft tyres though, with some deciding to set their opening laps on the Intermediates after so much rain fell overnight and during Friday morning.

Lewis Hamilton was one of the few to venture out on the Intermediates, however instantly reported to his team that there was a dry line. Both Mercedes drivers suffered from horrendous porpoising.

It didn’t take long for the session to be red-flagged, as Alex Albon’s rear-right tyre exploded in dramatic fashion after what appeared to be a combustion of heat due to too much friction. Fiery parts of his FW44, including his brake-line, were scattered across the circuit. Unsurprisingly this represented the end of Albon’s qualifying.

When the session got back underway, times tumbled as the track continued to evolve, however it was the usual suspects at the top of the timesheets. Elsewhere Nicholas Latifi span on his out-lap, contributing to what was a horrific qualifying for Williams Racing. With just two minutes to go, both Mercedes drivers found themselves in the bottom five and at risk of being eliminated from Qualifying 1. At the front Leclerc topped the session followed by Verstappen and Sainz.

Both George Russell and Hamilton just made it out of the session, with Hamilton scraping through by just +0.004s from Yuki Tsunoda behind. Both Scuderia AlphaTauri’s missed the cut at their home Grand Prix as well as both Williams, and surprisingly Esteban Ocon who appeared to have an issue.

Eliminated: Tsunoda, Gasly, Latifi, Ocon and Albon

Qualifying 2:

All remaining cars were quick to get out on track, with Ferrari reporting that each driver would only have a couple timed laps on the soft tyre before the rain would arrive. The ominous dark clouds hovered over the circuit as everyone pushed as hard as possible.

However Sainz pushed too hard on his second push-lap, the Spaniard span into the barrier at the final corner on what would’ve been a great lap. Sainz, who was awarded a new two-year contract prior to the weekend, had made it into the top ten, however wouldn’t take part with the crash bringing his session to an end. As a result of the crash the second red flag of the afternoon was brought, right as the rain began!

This effectively brought Qualifying 2 to an end, with the heavy rain resulting in soft tyres being impossible to use. The one push-lap second session saw both Mercedes eliminated from Qualifying and with plenty of work to do in the Sprint race on Saturday. It’s the first-time Mercedes haven’t had a car in Qualifying 3 since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen topped the second session from Sainz and Lando Norris, Leclerc ended the second session in fifth. Sebastian Vettel did brilliantly to make it into the final session, on the back of a disastrous Australian Grand Prix.

With a few minutes of the session remaining, most of the top ten went out on track to explore the wet conditions which they would be faced with in Qualifying 3.

Eliminated: Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll

Qualifying 3:

As the final session begun, the remaining nine drivers exited the pits whilst the rain appeared to stop, meaning the fastest times of the session were likely to come right at the end, adding to the excitement.

The session was quickly brought to a halt however, as the third red flag of Qualifying was flown after Kevin Magnussen went off at Turn 10. The Danish driver did well not to hit the wall and was able to bring his Haas back to the garage, ready for the remainder of the final Qualifying session.

When the final session got back underway, it was Leclerc who set the benchmark with Verstappen just +0.020s behind. The Dutchman jumped ahead of the championship leader on his following lap though, despite lifting off massively for Valtteri Bottas’ stricken C42 on the run down to the penultimate corner. Just as Verstappen crossed the line the fourth red flag of Qualifying was brought out to recover Bottas’ car.

With all eight remaining drivers in the pits with just three minutes on the clock, Verstappen sat at the top by almost eight tenths of a second as the rain began to fall heavily yet again!

When the lights turned green again the track had become far too wet for any driver to improve, meaning that Verstappen will start from pole position for Saturday’s Sprint race. Leclerc in front of the Tifosi lines up alongside Verstappen in second with Norris in third after a fantastic Qualifying session, although the McLaren F1 Team driver did bring out the fifth red flag of Qualifying with one minute remaining.

The shocks didn’t end there though as Magnussen qualified an incredible fourth with Fernando Alonso in fifth, Daniel Ricciardo sixth, Sergio Pérez a disappointing seventh, Bottas in eighth and Vettel in ninth. Sainz starts from tenth.

Full Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Qualifying Results:

1Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing1m19.295s1m18.793s1m27.999s
2Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1m18.796s1m19.584s1m28.778s
3Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1m20.168s1m19.294s1m29.131s
4Kevin MagnussenDENHaas F1 Team1m20.147s1m19.902s1m29.164s
5Fernando AlonsoESPBWT Alpine F1 Team1m20.198s1m19.595s1m29.202s
6Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team1m19.980s1m20.031s1m29.742s
7Sergio PerezMEXOracle Bull Racing1m19.773s1m19.296s1m29.808s
8Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen1m20.419s1m20.192s1m30.439s
9Sebastian VettelGERAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m20.364s1m19.957s1m31.062s
10Carlos Sainz JrESPScuderia Ferrari1m19.305s1m18.990sNo Time Set
11George RussellGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team1m20.383s1m20.757s 
12Mick SchumacherGERHaas F1 Team1m20.422s1m20.916s 
13Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team1m20.470s1m21.138s 
14Guanyu ZhouCHNAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen1m19.730s1m21.434s 
15Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team1m20.342s1m28.119s 
16Yuki TsunodaJPNScuderia AlphaTauri1m20.474s  
17Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri1m20.732s  
18Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing1m21.971s  
19Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1m22.338s  
20Alexander AlbonTHAWilliams RacingNo Time Set
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