Verstappen on Pole in Frequently Red Flagged Qualifying

Max Verstappen will start from pole position for Saturday’s Sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prixwith 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 tires 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 immediately 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 tire 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 the 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 tire 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 tires 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 has 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 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 Perez a disappointing seventh, Bottas in eighth and Vettel in ninth. Sainz starts from tenth.

Full Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Qualifying Results:

1 Max Verstappen NED Oracle Red Bull Racing 1m19.295s 1m18.793s 1m27.999s
2 Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari 1m18.796s 1m19.584s 1m28.778s
3 Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team 1m20.168s 1m19.294s 1m29.131s
4 Kevin Magnussen DENE Haas F1 Team 1m20.147s 1m19.902s 1m29.164s
5 Fernando Alonso ESP BWT Alpine F1 Team 1m20.198s 1m19.595s 1m29.202s
6 Daniel Ricciardo AUS McLaren F1 Team 1m19.980s 1m20.031s 1m29.742s
7 Sergio Perez MEX Oracle Bull Racing 1m19.773s 1m19.296s 1m29.808s
8 Valtteri Bottas FIN Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen 1m20.419s 1m20.192s 1m30.439s
9 Sebastian Vettel GER Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team 1m20.364s 1m19.957s 1m31.062s
10 Carlos Sainz Jr ESP Scuderia Ferrari 1m19.305s 1m18.990s No Time Set
11 George Russell GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team 1m20.383s 1m20.757s
12 Mick Schumacher GER Haas F1 Team 1m20.422s 1m20.916s
13 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team 1m20.470s 1m21.138s
14 Guanyu Zhou CHN Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen 1m19.730s 1m21.434s
15th Lance Stroll CAN Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team 1m20.342s 1m28.119s
16 Yuki Tsunoda JPN Scuderia AlphaTauri 1m20.474s
17 Pierre Gasly FR Scuderia AlphaTauri 1m20.732s
18 Nicholas Latifi CAN Williams Racing 1m21.971s
19 Esteban Ocon FR BWT Alpine F1 Team 1m22.338s
20 Alexander Albon THA Williams Racing No Time Set

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