Imola (dpa) – Max Verstappen has thoroughly spoiled Ferrari in the rain from Imola the start of the red festival.
The Dutch Formula 1 titleholder sped to first place in an eventful and disrupted chaotic qualifying session on Friday night. “It was hectic, it was long, but in the end I’m happy to be in first place,” said Verstappen.
He grabbed pole for the first sprint race of the year ahead of favorite and championship leader Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. “Second place on the grid is not a disaster,” said the Monegasque, whose team-mate Carlos Sainz had to retire early after hitting the barrier in tenth place. Third at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari was Lando Norris in the McLaren.
Complete disaster for Mercedes
Mercedes experienced a complete sporting disaster: Lewis Hamilton and George Russell caused the Silver Arrows’ worst qualifying result in years with their early exit in 13th and 11th place. As twelfth, Mick Schumacher pushed himself between the two, but the 23-year-old had to watch again, which was also possible in the Haas. Stable rival Kevin Magnussen sensationally steered his car into fourth place despite slipping in the last race. Sebastian Vettel was a strong ninth in the Aston Martin.
After the training before, the only question was how big the gap between the Ferrari duo and the pursuers would be. Mercedes, in particular, again had massive problems with the car bouncing during the one-hour practice session, and Russell’s Silver Arrow was even damaged as a result. And the two British drivers in the cars of the German factory team also struggled in the knockout phase.
After continuous rain during the night and until the early afternoon, the asphalt initially dried out a little at just twelve degrees. A ten-minute interruption after a tire burst plus a fire in Alexander Albon’s Williams also proved to be an advantage.
Hamilton escapes first round
The lap times continued to improve, but Hamilton more than just escaped the disgrace of being 15th in the first round, also beaten by Mick Schumacher. In 16th place, the record champion in the Silver Arrow was only four thousandths of a second ahead. The end in the second round was inevitable.
You then saw how the last rounds became a game of nerves. After Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo caused the next interruption. 2:58 minutes were still to drive. Verstappen led, assured that he had slowed down as required on his fastest lap, even under yellow flags.
When the qualification was released again, it wasn’t long before Norris caused the early end with a slip and orange instead of red was the color of success before the sprint on Saturday. In the race over 100 kilometers, eight World Championship points and the best grid position for the Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna on Sunday are at stake for the winner. Going into the fourth Grand Prix, Leclerc has 71 points, Russell is second (37), Hamilton fifth (28) and Verstappen sixth (25).