Verstappen beats Leclerc to Imola pole

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Verstappen beats Leclerc to Imola pole

Defending F1 drivers champion Max Verstappen beat both an on song Charles Leclerc and less than ideal weather to secure pole position at Imola.

Leclerc showed an ominous pace in FP1 again, topping the charts before rain subsided in Q1. He again set the fastest time on soft tires in Q1 to go half a second ahead of Verstappen. 

Q2 saw a greater threat of rain with Verstappen topping those timesheets before the newly signed Sainz crashed from P2 before the rain returned.

As teams switched to Intermediates tires for the final shootout and it was there that Verstappen set the early benchmark of 1m 27.999s – just as Valtteri Bottas crashed to bring out the fourth red flag of the afternoon with three minutes remaining.

Nearly eight-tenths off, Leclerc had one last chance to pry provisional pole away from the reigning champion but was left second and 0.799s off after the red flag.

 Norris took a surprise third for McLaren but slid off the track in the final seconds of Q3, while Kevin Magnussen finished a fine fourth for Haas and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top five for Alpine.

In sixth was Norris’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo while Sergio Perez could only manage P7 for Red Bull, ahead of Bottas – who was eighth before crashing his Alfa Romeo.

 Vettel, putting last week’s disappointment behind, took P9 to leave Ferrari’s Sainz P10 after crashing out of Q2.

Mercedes missed out on Q3, with both George Russell (P11) and Lewis Hamilton (P13) in the drop zone before rain hit in Q2. 

Mick Schumacher split the Silver Arrows for Haas in P12 while Zhou Guanyu was 14th, despite going P4 in Q1. 

That left Lance Stroll 15th for Aston Martin.

Nicholas Latifi missed out on Q2 in P18 for Williams, behind both AlphaTauris – Yuki Tsunoda P16 and Pierre Gasly P17 – in a less-than-ideal start to their home weekend.

Esteban Ocon suffered a suspected gearbox issue and ended up 19th, while Alex Albon was eliminated from Q1 when his right-rear brake caught fire and spread debris on the track, putting the Williams a provisional P20 on the grid for the Sprint.

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