Formula One

Max Verstappen holds off Lando Norris in Imola to win Emilia Romagna GP

“It hurts me to say it, but one or two more laps, I think I would have had him,” Norris said after the race.

Max Verstappen leads Lando Norris
Joe Portlock/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Max Verstappen held off a challenge from McLaren’s Lando Norris to win the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday and extend his Formula One championship lead.

Verstappen started on pole position and stayed ahead of Norris at the start but was put under pressure by the McLaren driver again near the end and won by less than a second.

“Especially the last 10, 15 laps, I had no grip anymore. I was really sliding a lot. I saw Lando closing in,” Verstappen said. “It’s very difficult when the tires are not working anymore and you have to go flat out, so I couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily, we didn’t and are super happy, of course, to win here today.”

It was the defending champion's fifth win in seven Grand Prix races this year and followed Verstappen being beaten by Norris in Miami two weeks ago.

Norris' second place Sunday underlined the McLaren team's credentials to be the closest challenger to Verstappen and Red Bull this season. “It hurts me to say it, but one or two more laps, I think I would have had him,” Norris said. “It would have been beautiful, but just not today.”

Charles Leclerc was third for Ferrari, the Italian team's first podium finish at Imola since 2006.

It's never easy to overtake on the narrow Imola track, and risk-taking was further discouraged this year when asphalt run-off areas on key corners were replaced with gravel traps.

Leclerc closed in on Norris mid-way through the race but made a mistake and ran across the grass, losing time.

Oscar Piastri had qualified second for McLaren but was dropped to fifth because of a penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen in a Haas. He got ahead of Sainz at the pit stops and finished fourth, ahead of the Spanish driver.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his teammate George Russell were sixth and seventh after a difficult weekend for Mercedes.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez started 11th after a mistake in qualifying and finished eighth. His main impact on the race was when he briefly held up Norris and Leclerc after their pit stops, indirectly helping Verstappen.

Yuki Tsunoda took ninth for RB and Lance Stroll took the last point in 10th for Aston Martin.

With the victory, Verstappen opened up a 48-point standings lead over Leclerc, who moved above Perez into second.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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