IMOLA: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen equalled Ayrton Senna’s record of eight pole positions in a row with the fastest lap in qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Saturday.

The late Brazilian’s run was set in 1988/89 with McLaren and Verstappen, also a triple Formula One world champion, started his sequence in Abu Dhabi at the end of last season and has yet to be out-qualified in 2024.

Verstappen’s 39th career pole came as Formula One marks 30 years since Senna, who had 65 poles, died in a crash at the Italian circuit on May 1, 1994.

“It’s a great start to the year and very special,” said the Dutch driver after also matching Alain Prost’s record 1993 seven successive poles at the start of a season.

“It’s 30 years since he (Senna) passed away, so very pleased to get pole and in a way it’s a nice memory to him. He was an incredible F1 driver, especially in qualifying,” added Verstappen.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri joined the championship leader provisionally on the front row, with stewards investigating the Australian for possibly impeding Haas’s Kevin Magnussen in the first phase of qualifying.

Lando Norris, a first time winner at the previous race in Miami, qualified third for McLaren with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc completing the second row at the Italian team’s home circuit.

“We are getting closer. To be ahead of Ferrari is also a nice result for us,” said Norris. “It’s going to be close, it’s going to be a good race tomorrow.

“Hopefully it’s an exciting one. Tough, especially when the lap times are so tight. A lot of it is down to lap one, strategy and the pit stops.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz qualified fifth, with Mercedes’ George Russell sixth and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda an impressive seventh for the Faenza-based Red Bull-owned team’s home race.

Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton will start eighth for Mercedes and RB’s Daniel Ricciardo ninth with Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg completing the top 10.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2024

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