Lando Norris breathes life into F1 title race as Max Verstappen given Imola GP fright

Max Verstappen celebrates with the winning trophy on the podium
Lando Norris pushed Max Verstappen very close at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix - Kym Illman/Getty Images

Whisper it quietly, but we may yet have a title race this year. Not only that, one that involves a British driver.

Max Verstappen ultimately clung on to win his fifth grand prix in seven races this season at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, the Dutchman extending his lead in the drivers’ championship to 48 points.

But the three-time world champion was pushed all the way by McLaren’s man-of-the-moment Lando Norris, who reckoned he needed only “one or two more laps” to overtake his rival at the end of what turned out to be a thrilling race. Just 0.7sec separated the two drivers in the final reckoning and it was a measure of just how competitive McLaren were that Norris was disappointed at the end. With Ferrari also breathing down Red Bull’s neck in Imola, the sport as a whole feels in an infinitely better place than it did one month ago.

Lando Norris smiles whilst on the podium
Lando Norris came so close to claiming back-to-back victories - Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The Italians’ revival - with Lewis Hamilton joining next year, and most likely Adrian Newey as well - is one thing. But it is no exaggeration to say that Norris’ emergence as a genuine contender over the last month has been the best thing to happen to the sport in quite some time.

The 24 year-old’s win in Miami two weekends ago was a massive boost for Formula One, sparking new interest in the sport. That McLaren were able to challenge Red Bull again in Italy is genuinely thrilling.

Verstappen has been crushingly dominant for over two seasons now. The sport desperately needed someone to step up to the plate. McLaren’s revival under Zak Brown and Andrea Stella has given Norris the opportunity to do so. And the 24 year-old from Bristol has grabbed it with both hands.

Even Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has had some well-publicised off-track issues this season, sounded pleased at the emerging narrative. “You’ve got two guys at the top of their game going at it like Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk,” he told Sky Sports F1 after the chequered flag fell. “It was literally sector for sector, fantastic racing at the end of the race.”

For much of it, it looked as if Norris’ fight was with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc behind him. Verstappen got away well from pole and looked supreme on the medium tyres in his first stint. But after switching to hard tyres, the pendulum swung in Norris’ and McLaren’s favour. From asking his race engineer why all the cars around him were so much faster than he was (he was told his rivals were all using up the tyres far faster than he was), the Bristol-born driver suddenly had eyes on the main prize. The last 10 laps were absolutely thrilling as the gap tumbled from five seconds, to four, to three, to two. With five laps remaining, the deficit was just 1.5sec and the Holy Grail of DRS hoved into view for Norris.

Verstappen had earlier received a warning for exceeding track limits. And the Dutch driver, whose preparations for this race had come under close scrutiny as he chose to stay up and race in the virtual 24hrs of Nurburgring with his Redline e-racing team, was suddenly under immense pressure, slipping and sliding on the hard tyres. “It was like driving on ice, really snappy,” he said afterwards. “Turn 7 I nearly ended up in the grandstand! There were some really weird lines I had to take. I could see him of course trying to catch up, and I just pushed as hard as I could with the grip that I had. With the rear wing that we had, I was quite fast on the straight and that probably helped me to defend.”

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium
Max Verstappen just held off Lando Norris to win the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix - Andrej Isakovic/Getty Images

In the end, Verstappen held on. It was a champion’s drive, all things considered - the 59th of his career, and his third in a row at Imola. But it needed to be. Norris’ rhetoric has changed out of all recognition. He is growing in confidence every week. The Briton - who also stayed up to watch the boxing - said he should have got pole here, could have won the race, and saw no reason why McLaren could not challenge Red Bull from here on in. With 17 races left this year, that is a lot of racing.

Red Bull still have a huge lead. But there is blood in the water now, and both McLaren and Ferrari can smell it. The only shame is that Mercedes - for whom Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were sixth and seventh here - are still swimming with armbands on.

Norris has no such issues. “I was just praying for one more lap,” he reflected once the dust had settled on this race. “I was pushing like hell. It wasn’t to be today. But I think we’re at a point now where we can happily say we’re fighting against Ferrari and Red Bull. It’s what we have to get used to. We’re fighting for first or second now. It’s still a surprise to say it’s frustrating not to win but after the last race [in Miami] and the improvements we’ve made it’s what we should start to expect.”

Mercedes ‘in no man’s land’ as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell hit out at car

While McLaren and Ferrari took the fight to Red Bull in Imola, raising hopes for an exciting rest of the year, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell bemoaned the fact Mercedes were “stuck in no man’s land” - too far back to challenge the frontrunners but comfortably ahead of the midfield.

Mercedes’s two British drivers finished sixth and seventh respectively at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix on what was another anonymous weekend for the Brackley team, who dominated the sport for the best part of eight years from 2014 onwards.

Hamilton and Russell did manage to beat the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez. But only because the Mexican was on an inverted strategy having started from 11th on the grid. Hamilton, who ran into the gravel at Acque Minerali at one point, started two places behind Russell but managed to leapfrog his teammate with 10 laps to go when Russell made a stop for fresh tyres, a stop which did result in him netting the fastest lap bonus point.

“You are never going to be happy with P6 and P7,” Russell said afterwards. “I am not going to sulk over losing a P6. This is where we are, in no-man’s-land, behind the Ferraris and McLarens and ahead of the midfield. Everybody is staying super-motivated which is inspiring to see. We have got to just keep pushing. The car was capable of P6 and P7 and that is where we finished.”

George Russell speaking during an interview
Mercedes are in no man's land, according to George Russell - David Davies/PA

Hamilton agreed: “We are in no-man’s land. There wasn’t much more for us to get today. It is not tough. It is where we are and we have to do the best we can and that is the best we could do today.”

Perhaps Mercedes still have a trick or two up their sleeves. Technical director James Allison was spotted exiting the Imola race track carrying a car part wrapped in bubble wrap. When Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz went to investigate, Allison backed away, denying Kravitz a peek. “Why aren’t you letting me look in the nose cone?” Kravitz asked. Allison joked back: “Because I don’t know what is in there... it might be all of our cocaine!”

Verstappen holds off Norris to win Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix: As it happened

04:37 PM BST

The thoughts of Lewis Hamilton

04:31 PM BST

Carlos Sainz speaking to Sky

Staying out didn’t pay off because I got undercut by Oscar. The pace wasn’t great today which I’m not happy with. After Qualifying, we saw something in the car which was not quite working as intended or expected. We also struggled and had a few issues with deployment.

In general, things didn’t go well which at a home race I’m not happy with. But I’m sure we can turn it around for Monaco and find a couple of issues that were holding us back and we will be back on the pace.

On whether the upgrades worked in the race:

From my side no because I think something was not there today but with Charles it looks like everything went as expected and the race pace was good. It’s all about who starts in front, so we need to find ways to start further in front.

04:24 PM BST

Another great performance from Norris

04:21 PM BST

Oscar Piastri talking to Sky

The last two weekends have been really good as a team but also for me personally they have been strong as well. I have been happy with how I’ve been performing.

Of course, I want to get some better results for that but I’m sure if I keep doing the right thing, that time will come.

It’s exciting to be genuinely able to say we can fight for wins.

04:20 PM BST

59th win for Verstappen

04:18 PM BST

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella speaking to Sky

The tyres were interesting, definitely not as easy as we anticipated. We lost too much time in the first stint. We had too much rear degradation and we thought today it was more about watching the mirrors than watching ahead of us.

With the hards, after we initially saved the tyres, when Leclerc and Oscar were fighting each other, I think this initial investment paid dividend towards the end of the race.

Lando had the best conditions of the tyres. In addition to the outright car pace, managing the tyres was an important factor. We have to say, Lando from his point of view has become a bit of a master.”

On whether Norris could have overtaken Verstappen with a few more laps:

63 laps is already many laps. Many times you can say ‘one lap more’. Also, it’s Max Verstappen. I’m sure he was a bit in trouble but he managed to get the most out of what he had.

Well done to Max and well done to our two drivers. Oscar paid for the issue we had yesterday, otherwise, he would have been on the podium as well. We take this positive and look forward with some optimism now.

04:12 PM BST

Start-to-win ratio

04:08 PM BST

Constructors’ standings

  1. Red Bull 268pts

  2. Ferrari 212pts

  3. McLaren 154pts

  4. Mercedes 79pts

  5. Aston Martin 44pts

04:01 PM BST

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner speaking to Sky

On the pressure Lando Norris put on Max Verstappen:

Massive pressure. A great, great job by Max to withstand that pressure. It was a race of two halves for us. The first half was very strong, but the second half of that last stint, Lando started to catch us very quickly.

The cars are converging after the latest upgrades, they are looking very similar. McLaren were very quick at this circuit and Ferrari as well.

On the field closing up:

You can see the cars are converging. The latest upgrades, they are all becoming very similar. The Ferrari as well is converging which always happens when you have stable rules. It’s nothing we haven’t expected.

At the circuit, McLaren were very quick and Ferrari as well.

03:59 PM BST

Driver of the Day

03:55 PM BST

Pleasing the home fans

03:54 PM BST

Drivers’ standings

  1. Max Verstappen 161pts

  2. Charles Leclerc 113pts

  3. Sergio Perez 107pts

  4. Lando Norris 101pts

  5. Carlos Sainz 93pts

  6. Oscas Piastri 53pts

  7. George Russell 44pts

  8. Lewis Hamilton 35pts

  9. Fernando Alonso 33pts

  10. Yuki Tsunoda 15pts

03:48 PM BST

Charles Leclerc happy to be on the podium

Of course, I’m only very happy when I win. We were fast at the beginning of the stint on the hard. I tried to push to put some pressure on Lando but later on they were incredibly quick. All in all, the race pace was quite strong.

We lacked pace in Qualifying. After looking, we missed out on the first straight. On the rest of the lap we were quick, so it’s looking good for the rest of the season. It’s incredible to be on the podium with all the Tifosi here in Imola.

Charles Leclerc speaking in a post-race interview
Charles Leclerc (pictured) finished third at Imola this afternoon - Andrej Isakovic/Getty Images

03:47 PM BST

Quotes from Lando Norris

It hurts me to say but one or two more laps I think I would have had him. Tough. A shame. I fought hard right until the very last lap but just lost out a little bit too much to Max in the beginning, he was much better in the first stint. In the second stint we were stronger.

It was a tough first half and a much better second half and one or two more laps and it would have been beautiful, but just not today.”

On the battle with Red Bull and Max Verstappen:

I think we’re at the point now where we can happily say we are in the position of Ferrari and Red Bull. So it’s what we have to get used to. But we are all doing a very good job and it’s business as usual.

It’s focusing on doing the same things, it’s just we are fighting for first or second now.

It’s still a surprise to say it’s frustrating not to win but after last weekend and the improvements we’ve made it’s what we should start to expect.

03:42 PM BST

The thoughts of Max Verstappen

The whole race I had to push flat out to try and make a gap initially. On the medium tyres we were quite strong. On the hard tyres it was more difficult to manage, especially the last 10 to 15 laps.

I had no grip anymore. I was sliding a lot. I saw Lando closing in. The last 10 laps were flat out. It’s difficult when the tyres were not working anymore and you have to go flat out. I couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily we didn’t.

I’m super happy to win here today.

On how Red Bull changed their weekend around after a difficult Friday:

We changed a lot on the car. We didn’t have a lot of information in the race. Maybe that’s why on the hard tyres it was more difficult.

From where we started the weekend to now, we can be incredibly pleased with pole and the win.

Max Verstappen celebrates winning the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
Max Verstappen (pictured) wins the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix - Mark Thompson/Getty Images

03:41 PM BST

Bottom ten

11. Nico Hulkenberg

12. Kevin Magnussen

13. Daniel Ricciardo

14. Esteban Ocon

15. Zhou Guanyu

16. Pierre Gasly

17. Logan Sargeant

18. Valtteri Bottas

19. Fernando Alonso

Retired: Alex Albon

03:39 PM BST

Brilliant drive from Lando

03:37 PM BST

Final classification

Top ten:

  1. Max Verstappen

  2. Lando Norris

  3. Charles Leclerc

  4. Oscar Piastri

  5. Carlos Sainz

  6. Lewis Hamilton

  7. George Russell

  8. Sergio Perez

  9. Lance Stroll

  10. Yuki Tsunoda

03:35 PM BST

Lando Norris on team radio after the race

Unlucky! Almost. We lost too much in the beginning. Another amazing weekend, well done everyone. A lot of points, another trophy. Let’s keep it up.

One or two more laps. That’s all I needed. It’s frustrating not to win. Feels more painful!

03:34 PM BST

What a finish

03:34 PM BST

Verstappen wins, just

03:33 PM BST

The final lap

03:32 PM BST

Top five

  1. Verstappen

  2. Norris

  3. Leclerc

  4. Piastri

  5. Sainz

03:29 PM BST

Verstappen wins

Norris is so close but it is Max Verstappen who wins the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

03:27 PM BST

Lap 63 of 63

We are onto the last lap but Norris is just out of DRS range.

03:26 PM BST

Lap 61 of 63

Verstappen has reported on team radio that the battery is almost empty. The gap is just over one second.

03:25 PM BST

Lap 61 of 63- three laps to go

Norris is within one and a half seconds but still agonisingly out of DRS range.

03:22 PM BST

Lap 59 of 63- five laps to go

Norris is 1.6 seconds behind Verstappen with five laps remaining. Can Lando get into DRS range and try a move for the win?

Lando Norris driving on the Imola circuit
Can Lando close in on Verstappen? - Lars Baron/Getty Images

03:19 PM BST

Lap 57 of 63- two seconds

The gap is down to just two seconds. Lando is on the charge!

03:17 PM BST

Lap 55 of 63- Norris closing in

Lando is getting closer and closer to Verstappen, with the gap now under 2.5 seconds. He has just taken a whole second out of Verstappen on one lap. Just under 10 laps to go.

03:17 PM BST

Lap 55 of 63- Albon retiring

Williams have told Albon to retire the car. What a dreadful day it has been for Albon, who has recently signed a new long-term contract with the team.

03:15 PM BST

Lap 53 of 63- Mercedes pit Russell

This is an interesting decision. With 10 laps remaining, Mercedes bring Russell in from sixth place. He goes onto a set of medium tyres and comes back out just ahead of Perez.

03:13 PM BST

Lap 52 of 63- Norris’ pace improving

Lando has now moved more than three seconds ahead of Leclerc and has reduced the gap to Verstappen to under five seconds. Has Lando been looking after his tyres and with just over 10 laps left can he close the gap on the Dutchman?

03:09 PM BST

Lap 49 of 63- Leclerc cuts chicane

Leclerc cuts the Variante chicane at the top of the hill and is now two seconds behind Norris. Sainz had also gained a bit of time on the other McLaren of Piastri but both McLarens have now stabilised the gaps. Have the Ferraris been pushing too hard or are McLaren struggling a little?

03:07 PM BST

Lap 48 of 63- Top five with gaps

  1. Verstappen    Interval

  2. Norris +6.1

  3. Leclerc +1.4

  4. Piastri +5.6

  5. Sainz +4.8

03:06 PM BST

Lap 47 of 63- Stroll gets past Hulkenberg

For the final points position Aston Martin’s Stroll overtakes Hulkenberg into turn one and takes tenth place.

03:02 PM BST

Lap 44 of 63- Norris under pressure from Leclerc

The Ferrari driver is within DRS range of Norris now as they hit some back-markers.

03:01 PM BST

Lap 43 of 63- Perez overtakes Tsunoda

The RB driver is passed by the Mexican into turn one and Perez takes eighth place, but he is 30 seconds behind Hamilton, who is currently in seventh.

Sergio Perez driving during the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix
Sergio Perez trying to make up some places - Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images

02:59 PM BST

Lap 42 of 63- Norris losing time

Leclerc is closing in on Norris, with the gap now down to under one and a half seconds. Norris has been stuck in some traffic but has been complaining about his tyres on team radio.

02:57 PM BST

Lap 40 of 63- Perez passes Ricciardo

The Mexican is back into the top 10 as he gets past Ricciardo fairly quickly.

And on the next lap he eases past Hulkenberg with DRS down the main straight. He is into ninth.

02:55 PM BST

Lap 39 of 63- Perez pits

Red Bull have called in Perez and he swaps the hard tyres for the mediums. He comes back out in 11th, behind Tsunoda, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo. What a difficult weekend it has been for the Mexican.

02:54 PM BST

Lap 38 of 63- Hamilton passes Perez

The Red Bull is much faster than the Mercedes in a straight line but with the power of DRS Hamilton gets past Perez into turn one to take seventh place. Perez is praying for a safety car but even then everyone in front would potentially take advantage of that to come in.

02:47 PM BST

Lap 33 of 63- Top five with gaps

  1. Verstappen   Interval

  2. Norris +6.7

  3. Leclerc +3.0

  4. Piastri +1.0

  5. Sainz +6.1

02:46 PM BST

Lap 32 of 63- Russell overtakes Perez

Russell is the latest to pass Perez on the pit straight and the Mexican’s day is not going well. His decision to go on an alternative strategy is not panning out as it stands.

02:44 PM BST

Lap 30 of 63- Sainz passes Perez

The Mexican has not pitted yet and Sainz gets past him into turn one. The Spaniard, having pitted a number of laps after Piastri, is now over six seconds behind the Australian.

02:41 PM BST

Lap 28 of 63- Ferrari bring Sainz in

Finally Sainz comes into the pits and Piastri is comfortably ahead of him. Sainz is behind Perez and only just is ahead of Russell.

Hamilton has also come in.

02:40 PM BST

Lap 27 of 63- Hamilton goes off

Hamilton has been off the track as he locks up and has lost some time. He does not come into the pits though.

Leclerc gets ahead of Perez before turn one and just a few corners later Piastri gets the move done as well.

02:38 PM BST

Lap 26 of 63- Leclerc pits

Ferrari do now decide that the time is right to bring in one of their drivers and it is Leclerc in first. A solid pit-stop from Ferrari but he comes out behind Perez, who is yet to pit.

Charles Leclerc pits
Ferrari bring in Charles Leclerc - Luca Bruno/AP

02:37 PM BST

Lap 25 of 63- Verstappen pits

The Dutchman comes in and out again around four and a half seconds ahead of Norris. Neither Ferrari driver has come in yet.

02:36 PM BST

Lap 24 of 63- Piastri pits

Ferrari do not bring Leclerc or Sainz into the pits but Norris’ teammate Piastri has pitted for the hard tyre. Norris has easily got past Perez down the pit straight.

Verstapppen has been shown the black and white flag for track limits.

Oscar Piastri pits
Oscar Piastri pits, hoping to undercut Carlos Sainz - Luca Bruno/AP

02:34 PM BST

Lap 23 of 63- Norris pits

The winner of the Miami GP has come into the pits and he goes onto the hard tyres. Frustratingly for McLaren he comes out just behind Perez. Presumably Ferrari will bring Leclerc in immediately.

Meanwhile Albon has been given a 10-second penalty for that earlier unsafe release and Russell has got past Ocon into ninth.

02:32 PM BST

Lap 22 of 63- Russell pits

The first driver into the top six has come into the pits and it is Mercedes’ Russell. He goes onto the hard tyres and comes out just behind the Alpine of Ocon, who has not pitted yet.

02:30 PM BST

Lap 20 of 63- Not going to plan for Perez

The Mexican opted to start on the hard tyre to do something different. He has just gone into the gravel at the final couple of corners and is over 15 seconds behind Hamilton, who is in seventh.

Sergio Perez driving out on track
It has been a challenging weekend so far for Sergio Perez - Peter Fox/Getty Images

02:25 PM BST

Lap 17 of 63- Top five and gaps

  1. Verstappen    Interval

  2. Norris +5.2

  3. Leclerc +1.6

  4. Sainz +2.9

  5. Piastri +1.0

02:21 PM BST

Lap 14 of 63- Both RBs pit

Ricciardo came in on the previous lap to go onto the hard tyre and the next lap Tsunoda does the same. That is quite an early stop for a supposed one-stop race.

Hulkenberg then responds but Haas have been undercut by Tsunoda. Great strategy call from RB.

02:19 PM BST

Lap 13 of 63- Battle for P4

Sainz has lost DRS to his teammate Leclerc in front and is under huge pressure from Piastri behind.

Carlos Sainz driving
Carlos Sainz is under pressure from behind from Oscar Piastri - Gabriel Bouys/Getty Images

02:18 PM BST

Lap 12 of 63- Albon back into the pits

Albon, on his way back to the pits, had to move out of the way of a few drivers and eventually makes it back to the pits.

Alex Albon comes in for a pit-stop
Alex Albon had a problem at his first stop - Luca Bruno/AP

02:16 PM BST

Lap 10 of 63- Albon going slowly

He has just come into the pits but Albon is moving slowly. He reports on the team radio that one of the tyres is not on properly.

02:15 PM BST

Lap 9 of 63- early pitstops

We are not even 10 laps into the race and some of those near the back have already come into the pits, such as Alonso, Gasly and Albon.

02:12 PM BST

Lap 7 of 63- Top five with gaps

  1. Verstappen   Interval

  2. Norris +1.8

  3. Leclerc +1.5

  4. Sainz +1.1

  5. Piastri +0.5

02:09 PM BST

Lap 5 of 63- Verstappen out of DRS range

Verstappen is more than a second ahead of Norris, so the McLaren driver does not have DRS. Leclerc does not have DRS either behind Norris and he has both Sainz and Piastri right behind him.

Max Verstappen steering through a corner
Max Verstappen kept the lead going into turn one - Antonio Calanni/AP

02:07 PM BST

Lap 3 of 63- Perez doing things differently

Perez has made up a place at the start into 10th and he is the first driver on an alternative tyre, as he starts on the hards.

02:04 PM BST

Lap 1 of 63- Verstappen holds

Norris gets a good start but Verstappen holds onto first place, taking the inside line.

Hamilton is up from eighth to seventh, with Tsunoda losing a couple of positions at the start.

02:03 PM BST

Lights out

We are under way.

02:01 PM BST

Formation lap

19 of the drives are making their way around the track on the formation lap, but Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso is starting from the pitlane so he is still in his garage.

Most drivers are on the medium tyres, but Sergio Perez, who starts 11th, is one who is starting on an alternative tyre, choosing to go with the hards.

We are expecting a one-stop race, but with a high probability of a safety car, that could change.

01:59 PM BST

Can Lando win back-to-back?

Just had a quick chat with Lando’s dad Adam on the grid. He has watched almost every one of his son’s races but unfortunately wasn’t in Miami for that first F1 win. He expressed genuine hope that McLaren’s race pace might enable Lando to challenge for a second win today.

01:58 PM BST

Reminder of the top ten at the start

  1. Verstappen

  2. Norris

  3. Leclerc

  4. Sainz

  5. Piastri

  6. Russell

  7. Tsunoda

  8. Hamilton

  9. Ricciardo

  10. Hulkenberg

01:56 PM BST

Five-minute buzzer

We are just five minutes away from the formation lap. Strap yourselves in for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

01:50 PM BST

Oscar Piastri talking to Sky

It’s been a good weekend. The penalty wasn’t ideal but we can still work from there.

It’s going to be an interesting race because I’m not sure who’s going to win!

01:48 PM BST

McLaren CEO Zak Brown speaking to Sky

I think the top five cars can win today. Fortunately we’ve got two in the top five.

We put Oscar at a bit of a disadvantage by getting the strategy bit wrong, which is unfortunate, but I think we have two fast race cars surrounded by three or four other fast race cars, so I think we’re going to see a great race today.

01:46 PM BST

Atmosphere electric at Imola

01:44 PM BST

The Senna family on the grid

01:43 PM BST

Hugh Grant and Flavio Briatore in attendance

Hugh Grant speaks to Flavio Briatore
Hugh Grant (centre) and Flavio Briatore in attendance - Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

01:41 PM BST

20 minutes to go

01:36 PM BST

Piastri onto the grid

He qualified second yesterday but after a three-place penalty Oscar Piastri will start from fifth today.

01:30 PM BST

Lando Norris speaking to Sky

We’ve continued the good run of form, good pace, good qualifying, and today we need to prove that we’ve got good race pace.

We had a fairly strong indication on Friday that the pace was very good, so I’m excited, I would love if it could cool down just a little bit, that would play into our hands a touch more, but things are looking good and we are in a good position. I think we can bring the fight to Max ahead.

On today’s plan: 

Executing plans is always a tricky thing. We’ve got to make the most of the start, that’s my best opportunity to make my life a lot easier.

01:23 PM BST

Pit lane open

With just under 40 minutes to go before lights out, the pit lane has opened so the drivers are making their way onto the track.

01:23 PM BST

Quotes from Max Verstappen

I think qualifying was of course very good, but we don’t really have a lot of experience in the race runs because we really finding a good balance.

I think it’s going to be a tough battle to keep them [McLaren and Ferrari] behind, they are probably even more comfortable with what they have been doing, we will see.

We will go into the race and see how everything works, if the car is quick I will try and stay ahead, the target is to try and win the race. I think it’s going to be a good battle between quite a few teams today.

01:21 PM BST

Remembering Ayrton

01:16 PM BST

McLaren duo getting ready

01:13 PM BST

How Max secured pole

01:10 PM BST

Seb’s lap

Here you go. I spoke about needing to watch this video, and here it is. Turn it up to full volume:

01:03 PM BST

Sky’s Karun Chandhok trackside for Seb’s lap

01:02 PM BST

Sky’s Damon Hill on Verstappen’s pole

They were unusually forlorn and a little bit lost, scratching heads and looking a bit confused by things.

But then as the weekend builds up and it gets closer and closer to the final run, Max dug deep, he found whatever he’s got there and he absolutely delivered the lap.

Senna would be proud of it, I think. It was a very special lap, absolutely fully committed.

01:01 PM BST

Starting grid

  1. Max Verstappen

  2. Lando Norris

  3. Charles Leclerc

  4. Carlos Sainz

  5. Oscar Piastri

  6. George Russell

  7. Yuki Tsunoda

  8. Lewis Hamilton

  9. Daniel Ricciardo

  10. Nico Hulkenberg

  11. Sergio Perez

  12. Esteban Ocon

  13. Lance Stroll

  14. Alex Albon

  15. Pierre Gasly

  16. Valtteri Bottas

  17. Zhou Guanyu

  18. Kevin Magnussen

  19. Logan Sargeant

  20. Fernando Alonso (starting from the pitlane)

12:55 PM BST

Sebastian Vettel pays tribute to Ayrton

There have been plenty of tributes to Ayrton Senna this weekend, including four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel driving Senna’s McLaren round this iconic circuit. This is the MP4-8 from 1993, which Vettel owns himself:

Sebastian Vettel drives Ayrton Senna's historic McLaren car
Sebastian Vettel has had the chance to drive Ayrton Senna's historic McLaren car - Andrej Isakovic/Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel smiles on the Imola circuit after driving Ayrton Senna's McLaren
What an honour for Seb! - Andrej Isakovic/Getty Images

I have just been watching Sebastian taking it round and it is spine-tingling. The noise is incredible. You have to watch the video, it is quite something.

12:50 PM BST

Drivers arriving

12:25 PM BST

Emilia-Romagna GP preview

For the first time this season, we race in Europe and what a track to begin the European season. The iconic, historic Imola circuit in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Earlier this month we marked 30 years since the death of Ayrton Senna at this track, on a tragic weekend for the sport when Roland Ratzenberger also lost his life the day before Senna.

At the same track where Senna perished 30 years ago, Max Verstappen matched the iconic Brazilian’s record of eight consecutive pole positions yesterday in qualifying. He only just secured pole though, with both McLarens within a tenth of a second of the Dutchman. Oscar Piastri was set to start in second, however a three-place grid penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen means he will start fifth, promoting Lando Norris onto the front row alongside Verstappen. At such an iconic track on a poignant weekend, Verstappen was proud to match Senna’s record.

“It’s been 30 years since he passed away at this track. So, of course, very pleased to get pole here. And in a way, it’s a nice memory to him. He was an incredible Formula 1 driver, especially in qualifying laps as well. So, yeah great day for me, great day for the team.”

Tributes at the Ayrton Senna Memorial at the Imola circuit
Formula 1 remembers Ayrton Senna, who died at this track 30 years ago this month - David Davies/PA

Verstappen had been struggling through the practice sessions but made it matter when it counted in the final part of qualifying. The Dutchman admitted his pole yesterday was unexpected.

“I honestly went into qualifying and I was like, ‘Well if we can get a top five, I would be happy,’ because this weekend has been really difficult. In the last couple of years, this has definitely been one of the best (turnarounds), I would say. It’s been a while that I’ve felt like we’ve been that far off.”

Behind Verstappen and Norris, the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will start third and fourth respectively with Piastri in fifth after his penalty. The Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will start sixth and eighth respectively. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez had a disastrous qualifying where he finished up in 11th. On a notoriously difficult track to overtake, it could be a tough afternoon for the Mexican.

Can Norris match what he did in Miami and beat Verstappen to the win despite the Dutchman starting on pole? We will find out in the next few hours.