Race Report: Verstappen holds on to win Imola GP

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit on May 19, 2024 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202405190520 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen converted his pole position to a victory at the Formula 1 Imola Grand Prix. The race was a slow burn affair with only one stop and not much passing but Lando Norris made a race of it by closing down Max in the waning laps to finish second with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in third.

Friday’s practice sessions would suggest that Red Bull were struggling a lot with the front-limited circuit. After an 11-hour shift in the simulator back at base, the team were able to correlate their aero upgrades with the chassis’s willingness to provide grip. It was a cure and Sunday proved their hard work was correct as the team recovered to a race win.

Win

A big win for Red Bull who worked tirelessly to get on top of their new upgrades and get the car to work after struggling mightily on Friday. Max struggled with the front end but the hard work revealed itself on Saturday’s practice session and with a few more tweaks, they managed to turn their weekend around.

A win for Lando Norris and McLaren for making a race of it by qualifying very well and then pushing Max all the way to the end. Lando lacked pace early on but managed his tires well to have pace at the end of the race devouring a 5s lead that Max enjoyed.

A win for Charles Leclerc who made it to the podium in Italy with a drive to P3. He looked as if he had the pace early on but the second stint seemed to be less competitive and not enough to take the fight to McLaren. Ultimately it suggests that McLaren are amongst the leaders and fighting for podiums and wins.

A win for Oscar Piastri who recovered from his grid penalty to 4th ahead of Carlos Sainz. Not the race or penalty he wanted but he did run a good race to P4 and big points.

Fail

A fail for Red Bull’s Sergio Perez who had a tough qualifying and then opted for a different tire strategy that didn’t quite work out. He was able to box late and come back to P8 but ran off track in the process and couldn’t find the pace to get into the top 5. To be fair, this was a slow, methodical race with limited passing opportunities making strategy a key element and back markers a real detriment to anyone’s race.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll did a similar strategy as Perez and it equally did not work and his teammate, Fernando Alonso, eventually boxed late int eh race for a DNF. Lance ended in P9.

A fail for Daniel Ricciardo who finished out of the points while teammate Yuki Tsunoda came home in P10 for a point. The harsh reality is that Daniel isn’t doing enough against his teammate to justify a ride at Red Bull and runs the risk of losing his seat at RB at this point.

Unfortunately Haas F1 missed out on points after Nico Hulkenberg did everything he could to score points. IT looked as if he might be on for P10 but his second stint cost him time and positions.

A fail for Carlos Sainz who couldn’t manage to beat the McLaren’s and it is quite a turnaround from his early-season performance with Charles now taking the lead for Ferrari. Not sure what changed or why Carlos seems to be struggling now.

WTH

I am not sure I understand Mercedes strategy by boxing George Russell late in the race for fresh tires ceding the P6 position to his teammate Lewis Hamilton. With the gaps to those around George, it really didn’t look s if fresh tires were going to help him other than move Lewis up so I am not sure Understand the reasons and look forward to reading the team’s explanation.

So David Croft sat this one out for Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Good on him. His replacement was Harry Benjamin and while I am sure he is a delightful guy and complete petrol head, this race weekend was an example of the difference between actually calling a race versus simply describing a race. Long, slow-paced sentences consuming time to say very little coupled with verbal commentary of what is plainly before the viewers is merely describing the race as it unfolds. The art is actually calling the race. Karun and Ted had to come in and begin calling the race and I appreciate that they did. If this is who Sky is looking at as a replacement for Crofty, I’d suggest more time calling junior series races might be in order because the commentary for this race was challenging to listen to.

Pirelli Report:

15 drivers lined up for the start on the Medium tyre. Three, Perez, Sargeant and Zhou, opted for the Hard, while Alonso, starting from pit lane and Gasly, took a gamble on the Soft. As widely predicted it was a one-stop race, with Medium and Hard the favourite choices. Starting on the Softs simply did not pay off, both the above mentioned drivers having to make an additional stop. With three laps to go, Aston Martin’s Spanish driver fitted another set of Softs, probably with the aim of setting the fastest race lap, but this actually went to George Russell who also made an extra stop on lap 52 with this in mind, thus bringing Mercedes the extra point. The prize for the longest stint of all goes to Valtteri Bottas (Sauber) who is no stranger to this exercise. He completed 54 of his 62 laps on the C3, while Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) topped the laps on the C4, extending the first stint to lap 37.

Imola GP Results:

POSNODRIVERCARQ1Q2Q3LAPS
11Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT1:15.7621:15.1761:14.74618
281Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES1:15.9401:15.4071:14.82015
34Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES1:15.9151:15.3711:14.83719
416Charles LeclercFERRARI1:15.8231:15.3281:14.97021
555Carlos SainzFERRARI1:16.0151:15.5121:15.23320
663George RussellMERCEDES1:16.1071:15.6711:15.23418
722Yuki TsunodaRB HONDA RBPT1:15.8941:15.3581:15.46515
844Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:16.6041:15.6771:15.50420
93Daniel RicciardoRB HONDA RBPT1:16.0601:15.6911:15.67415
1027Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI1:15.8411:15.5691:15.98021
1111Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT1:16.4041:15.70610
1231Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT1:16.3611:15.90615
1318Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES1:16.4581:15.99215
1423Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:16.5241:16.20012
1510Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT1:16.0151:16.38114
1677Valtteri BottasKICK SAUBER FERRARI1:16.6266
1724Zhou GuanyuKICK SAUBER FERRARI1:16.8349
1820Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI1:16.8548
1914Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES1:16.9177
NC2Logan SargeantWILLIAMS MERCEDESDNF8
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Fabio

Can we start a petition to bring back gravel traps to a lot more tracks, it certainly solved the track limits issue.
Also, while Harry was average on the commentary, at least it wasn’t Davide Valsecchi