World champion Max Verstappen lost his starting pole at the Sprint race at Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in Imola on Saturday afternoon, with Charles Leclerc leading for much of the race. However the Dutch Red Bull driver closed in towards the end of the race to win back his place to start in pole for Sunday’s full race.
Max Verstappen pounced on Charles Leclerc in the closing stages to take Sprint glory – and pole position for Sunday’s main race – at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Verstappen started the Sprint on pole in his Red Bull but was slow off the line, allowing Leclerc to dive past and take the race lead – much to the delight of the Imola crowd.
After four laps Mercedes – so much more impressive at FP2 in the day’s first action – had achieved nothing – down in 15th with Lewis Hamilton and 12th with George Russell. They would finish 14th and 11th respectively.
More impressive was Sergio Perez as he mounted a charge to close in on a podium place, sweeping past Kevin Magnussen on lap eight and continuing to keep up the pressure on Lando Norris’ McLaren, perhaps given an advantage as Norris and teammate Daniel Ricciardo struggled earlier with technical problems.
Leclerc looked good in his Ferrari for 17 of the 21 laps, but his tyres began to fall off and Verstappen got within DRS range in the dying stages of the race.
With six laps remaining the gap was 1.3 seconds, with a little over two laps left, that was down to a quarter of second.
Such was the world champion’s focus he had to tell his team, ‘Just leave me to it,’ as they attempted to feed him information.
DRS looked extremely potent for other drivers, and it proved to be the case for Verstappen who swept by on lap 20 to take the win, with current championship leader Leclerc unable to hit back with his own DRS.
Nevertheless, while the result suggests that Red Bull could finally have rediscovered last season’s form, Leclerc has been able to extend his lead at the top of the championship table. Perez’s third place sees Red Bull sandwich the Ferrari man at Sunday’s start for the full race at Imola.