The Saturday in F1 Imola GP saw Red Bull bounce back as Ferrari faltered slightly allowing McLaren to get ahead of them.

The Saturday in F1 Imola GP was a hectic and close qualifying as Red Bull bounced back with Max Verstappen taking pole albeit with a help of a tow from Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg. McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and even Lando Norris came close to beating the Dutchman.

But both fell short eventually where Piastri even had a penalty against his name to drop three places back allowing Ferrari pair to get ahead. Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz did not get the most out of its soft tyres to fall back behind McLaren.

On the race pace side, they will hope to be in a better position. Red Bull had half glory as Sergio Perez was knocked out in Q2 to be only 11th. Even the Aston Martin pair did not fare well with Fernando Alonso out in Q1 and Lance Stroll in Q2. The Mercedes pair made it inside the Top 10 but weren’t as quick as the likes of McLaren or Ferrari.

Verstappen: “We kept on working. Even this morning it was not good. We just kept on trying to improve the balance of the car because it was shifting a bit all over the place yesterday and this morning. So yeah, I mean, 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. There was really no reference going into qualifying. But yeah, it felt straight away a lot a little better. I felt more comfortable. I could attack corners finally a bit more and it all started to come together and it really came together in Q3. As for the help for Nico, we were tow buddies out there in Q2 already, Q3. So I gave him a tow to 17, then he gave me a tow to Turn 2. I think I did arrive a bit too quick for my liking because I did miss Turn 2 a little bit. So I did gain, then I did lose a bit in 2. Overall, I think it did help me a little bit. But when you are struggling the whole weekend and then finally it’s coming around, you have to look for these little advantages to try and stay ahead. And it worked out beautifully.

“For the race, I mean, yesterday was terrible in long run and short run. This morning we wanted to do a long run, but then we only did like three laps. But also there it didn’t feel good. But I also had no balance in the short run. So then it’s quite normal that in the long run it’s not good. So naturally, I think with the balance that I had in qualifying, it will be better. But I have no clue against McLaren. They looked very strong yesterday in their long run. So hopefully, yeah, we can do something similar. I mean, the whole weekend we have been on the back foot. We managed to be on top in qualifying, but that’s qualifying. You know, the race can be again a bit different. And normally I would like to be a little bit better prepared with a bit more information going into the race. So I guess, yeah, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the race.”

Piastri: “I mean I’ve been happy with it all weekend to be honest. From the start of P1 all the way through quali I think a couple of scruffy laps in the middle of qualifying but in Q3 it came together a bit more and I was happy with the last lap. So yeah, it’s been a really strong weekend for us so far. There’s been no points yet of course, they are tomorrow, but yeah I think we’ve been pretty happy all weekend.  I think our long runs yesterday looked good, but it’s very, very close. I think that’s kind of been the story of the season and the last few races, everyone’s been so tight. So yeah, we’ll see. Overtaking is very tough here, but I think we can be optimistic. If you can get into the lead, that usually helps out a bit early on. So, yeah, I mean, of course, you try to get a good start, but yeah, we’ll see. I think in terms of qualifying sessions in F1, I think, to be honest, it’s been a strong weekend the whole time. I feel like it’s been a good qualifying session for me, I would say, you know, up there. Probably not the single best but certainly up there in the sessions I’ve had, and I feel like you know the last couple of weekends… Like, Miami was a good qualifying day and I feel like today’s been strong as well. So it’s been nice to build a bit more consistency which is something I’ve been trying to work on. so I’m happy with my day’s work.”

Norris: “Car’s been great all weekend, to be honest. I think since FP1 we’ve been feeling pretty good. Frustrating, I mean, anytime you’re within one tenth of pole, you always feel like, where was that last little bit? And I think it was definitely in there, but it’s a difficult track just to nail. And I think I did a good job. I was happy with my laps. So I think both Oscar and Max did a very good job today. But it’s such a quick and difficult circuit. You kind of have to commit. You can’t try and do things. You have to just commit to it and kind of see how you end up on the other side. So it’s all about timing. And as soon as you misjudge something a little bit, it can go wrong pretty quickly. So it’s an exciting quali lap. I think we did a good job from a team side. I feel like I did a good job today. So strong performance from McLaren and excited for tomorrow. I mean, we were very good yesterday, but also in Imola when you see others, we didn’t do the quickest laps in these long runs. We were probably the most consistent, but a lot of others had traffic and things like that. So it’s close, like it was today. We were confident, you know, the car felt good. It was also a bit colder, so maybe if that kind of came back to us, that would be nice. Yeah, we had a good day yesterday. The whole weekend, the car has been performing well and the team have been doing a good job. But I don’t expect us just to have like an easy day tomorrow. I think to overtake here is pretty much impossible, like I said. So that’s our first task. But at the same time, if we can pressure them and kind of keep on their toes throughout the whole race and have a performance like Miami, then I think we can be optimistic, of course. But just the overtaking and the strategy is probably a bit harder than what was in Miami.”

Leclerc: “FP1 and FP2 went really well, however we never know what are the fuel levels of the others and I think they hid their game a bit more than what we thought. That ended up by just having not enough performance in the car to do better today. It’s a shame, because when you have upgrades on the car, when you are at [Ferrari’s] home, you obviously want to do really well, but today was the best we could do. Tomorrow we will focus on maxmising the result, but the target remains the win, for sure. The car is definitely good in terms of race pace, however it’s one of the most difficult tracks to overtake on. Also I don’t quite understand why the DRS [zone] is shorter this year, which is going to make overtakes a bit more difficult. But strategy is still there, the pace is there, so my target is still the win, and if we come short of this, it’s life, we will have tried at least.”

Hamilton: “The car felt really good on Friday but today, I was struggling to find that same level of grip. It was frustrating and I think the small changes we made going into Qualifying had quite a big impact. George did a great job though and for him to be only four tenths off pole is clearly a good step forward for us. Unfortunately I was just lacking some pace so couldn’t quite match that. Tomorrow we are likely looking at trying to make up a few positions. We will do some work tonight to see if we can improve anything but it’s very hard to overtake here so, unless something out of the ordinary happens, we will only be able to make small gains.”

Alonso: “It was one of those days where everything went a bit wrong for us. It started with the heavy crash in FP3 and the mechanics did a great job in getting the car ready for Q1. We headed out for Qualifying a few minutes into the session and fueled to do all of Q1. The best lap I managed was when the car was heavier with fuel and then we had to box for an issue at the end of the session just before my final attempt. The car felt quite good in Qualifying and I think there was some more pace in hand, so it was a shame we couldn’t improve my lap-time. It’s very difficult to overtake here and so it’s going to be a tough race, but we should be able to learn lots tomorrow.”

The ouster for Perez, Alonso and Stroll helped the Visa Cash App pair of Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo make it inside the Top 10, with the Australian stepping after low-key pratice. Even Haas’ Hulkenberg made it through when Kevin Magnussen was out in Q1.

The Dane was impeded by Piastri but his luck hasn’t been good at all thus far. For the Alpine pair, getting inside Q2 was a fine result, while Williams’ Alexander Albon made it in but Logan Sargeant had all his laps deleted for track limits. Both the Stake F1 Team cars too were knocked out after struggles in qualifying.

Tsunoda: “Congrats to the team, and Daniel as well. We’re showing how much pace the car has, and I think the amount of work the people are doing in the factory is more than we think, so they deserve the credit. We didn’t expect this much performance but the team is working really hard to develop our car and their effort is massive, more than I can imagine, and it’s paying off because the car is consistently performing really well. As a “new” team with many new people, we needed time to blend together and now everyone’s working well and we don’t make many mistakes. They definitely deserve the results and I’m super appreciative of the team for giving me such a nice car, especially at our home race in front of our factory people in the grandstand. For myself, to be honest, I’m not entirely happy because I didn’t manage to give the maximum in Q3 today, but I think until then it was pretty good. It was the first time I was able to get through Q2 with one set and that’s definitely a positive. In Q3, the laps I did weren’t amazing, I was expecting more and I could’ve done better. As a driver, it’s always frustrating when you don’t put it all together and there is time left on the table. In saying that, this week has been pretty solid so far, so we’ll focus on extracting the maximum performance and finishing strong with both cars tomorrow!”

Magnussen: “I don’t know what’s going on this year, but it keeps happening and eventually it’s got to stop. We don’t seem to be doing anything different compared to others in terms of timings, but out of seven qualifying sessions, we’ve had traffic in five that’s caused us problems on exactly the lap that needs to count. It’s not an easy track to overtake and it looks like a one-stop race, so we’ll see what happens.”

Ocon: “From where we started the weekend with the overall balance and feel of the car, we have made good progress as a team to improve things and put ourselves in the mix for the Grand Prix tomorrow. It has been a tricky weekend and difficult to put a lap together, but we optimised all three Practice sessions and kept the team busy with various changes on set-up. We worked well to improve the car balance and behaviour of the car each session, which is credit to the team. The field was very close – closer than usual on this short circuit – but the lap in the end was not enough to make it into Q3. We need to understand why we cannot make the same jump in performance from Q1 to Q2 that the other teams do, which is something we will continue to evaluate further.”

Sargeant: “It’s been a tricky weekend so far. The wind has been changing over the course of the two days and there was a track reset before Qualifying as there was quite a bit less grip than FP3, which was catching people out, including myself. Not every weekend is going to be easy; this track in particular poses a lot of challenges – it’s an old school track so there’s bumps, it’s tight, and it’s fine margins out there. Nonetheless, we’ve stuck with it well and I’ve been improving session after session. I’m focusing on doing my best and we’ll maximise what we can tomorrow.”

Bottas: “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the easiest of weekends so far for us, as we have been lacking a bit of consistency overall. Getting out of Q1 is always tough, especially by such a thin margin; the track has been trickier than usual to drive on so far this weekend, as it has been quite windy and gusty. Overall, it hasn’t been an easy session, and we could have probably extracted a couple hundredths more. On top of that, a sudden gust of tailwind made me lose some time in Turn 12 during my second run. As a positive, our race pace is there: what we would need ahead of tomorrow is some luck and some action in front of us to further progress. It’ll be challenging, but we are ready to take any chance that we could get.”

Here’s how F1 Imola GP qualifying panned out

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