Max Verstappen would ‘rather qualify eight tenths ahead’ after another close call at Imola

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen smiling

Max Verstappen won't be making a switch away from Formula 1, so football fans can stand down.

Narrowing pipping McLaren to pole position at Imola before winning the Grand Prix by a measly 0.725s ahead of Lando Norris, Max Verstappen has doubled down on his claim he’d rather be miles ahead.

After a ferocious battle in 2021 when he went wheel-to-wheel against Lewis Hamilton for the World title, the two trading blows and P1s, Verstappen had it his own way in the first two years of F1’s ground-effect aerodynamic cars.

Max Verstappen: I would rather qualify with a lot in front

He won 15 of 22 Grands Prix in F1 2022 and wrapped up the World title in Japan with four races to spare.

A year later he did it with six Grands Prix in hand as a P2 in Qatar’s Sprint race gave him the necessary points to retain the title. He won 19 of 22 Grands Prix.

This season he’s already on five wins from seven races but it’s by no means yesteryear’s cruise as Red Bull are under pressure from McLaren and Ferrari.

It had the 26-year-old admitting he’d rather win by huge margins, even if it’s not great viewing for the fans.

At least 20 seconds!” he said in Miami to Sky F1. “I’ve raced so much in my life in close combat. I enjoy a lot more if we can actually nail the car and are 100 per cent sure that we can win by a big margin but, of course, that’s not what fans want to hear.”

He doubled down on that at Imola where he grabbed pole position by a mere 0.074s ahead of the McLaren of Oscar Piastri.

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“I would rather qualify eight-tenths ahead, but that’s not possible,” he said. “It is very enjoyable when you have a turnaround like we had. I was really excited in qualifying and really happy when I heard that we were on pole.

“It was great that it was that close and that we really, really had to fight for it. But I still come back to the first point. I would rather qualify with a lot in front!

“But I mean, that’s how it goes, right? I guess sometimes you have weekends where everything really comes together and then the car becomes like unbelievable to drive. And it doesn’t matter what you do, it just feels fantastic, and then you can do some really like special laps, which have happened in the past.”

Verstappen needed to pull out those special laps late in Sunday’s Grand Prix after Norris chased him down to run within DRS range of the World Champion in the closing laps.

Although the McLaren driver wasn’t able to get close enough to challenge for the lead, Verstappen still had to hold his nerve as he took the chequered flag by 0.725s.

He applauded Red Bull’s fightback on a weekend in various niggles with the car during the practice sessions had the Dutchman on the back foot.

“I would say definitely this year in terms of how we managed to just turn things around,” he said. “I mean, in general this year, of course, we had a really good car so far. But, yeah, for whatever reason, we didn’t get on top of things from the start.

“I do think, of course, from qualifying onwards, it all looked a bit more normal. But maybe we were not on top of things for the race still, because on the Hard tyres, for sure, something was not optimised, because I just never felt like the tyres were working on our car. So that’s something that we have to analyse.

“But clearly the teams around us, you know, they are catching up and they’re doing a really good job. So we also need to try and find improvements from our side.”

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