How Max Verstappen ‘almost ended up in grandstand’ in Imola bid to ‘survive’

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull's Max Verstappen puts his hands to his face.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Max Verstappen detailed his struggles to bring the win home at Imola as McLaren’s Lando Norris pursued, nearly ending up “in the grandstand” on his hard tyres.

Verstappen was able to establish a comfortable buffer over Miami GP winner Norris during the opening stint, both drivers on the medium tyre, but when the hards were bolted on for the second and final stint, Norris in the McLaren came alive, whittling away Verstappen’s advantage.

Max Verstappen ‘almost ended up in the grandstand’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

By the closing laps, Norris was right on Verstappen’s rear wing but Verstappen would hold on to secure a fifth win of the season. Norris was only seven-tenths behind at the chequered flag.

Verstappen would confirm that he was not enjoying life on the hard Pirelli compound, as he just tried to “survive” to the end with Norris smelling blood.

Talking to the media, including, on how tough those closing laps were, Verstappen replied: “Yeah, I think first of all, in the race, like on the mediums, I think it was very good. I didn’t expect that kind of pace after what we did so far in the weekend.

“But we could have somehow kept the balance together. So that felt really nice.

“But then as soon as I swapped to the hard tyres, it was definitely… I mean, maybe not the first five to 10 laps, but after that I was like, I’m not sure I can bring this to the end, you know, because the tyres just fell out of the operating window and yeah, it was just like driving on ice, really snappy and just you can feel when the tyres are not gripping up anymore like Turn 7, I almost ended up in the grandstand for my feeling, at some point.

“Just very difficult, really weird lines that I had to take. Those last 10 laps you know I was really trying to survive with the tyres and then suddenly Lando really picked up pace.

“So, yeah, I could see him, of course, catch up. I was not sure if I could keep him behind, but I was just trying to do the best I could, pushing as hard as I could with the grip that I had. And, yeah, luckily, it was just enough laps.”

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Asked if there was a specific problem behind his issues on the hard tyre, Verstappen said: “Yeah, I just couldn’t really get the tyres to work. It just felt like they were not operating in the right temperature window.

“And that just got worse and worse. So the last 15 laps for me was really like driving on ice. They were not responding anymore. So that’s something that we have to analyse.”

This latest triumph marked Verstappen’s third victory in a row at Imola.

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