Five crashes in the rain from Imola: Chaos qualification washes Verstappen and Vettel forward

Five red flags characterize qualifying for the fourth race of the Formula 1 season. In difficult conditions, world champion Max Verstappen secures pole position for the sprint. Sebastian Vettel benefits from the unrest, while Schumacher colleague Magnussen shines in the Haas.

Actually, Formula 1 plans around 60 minutes for qualifying, but in Imola it takes more than 105 minutes until the starting places for the first sprint race of the season are allocated. Max Verstappen in the Red Bull benefits from the fifth and final red flag of qualification after Lando Norris got his McLaren stuck in the gravel bed on the last attempt – and thus made the provisional pole position for the world champion a certainty.

Verstappen (1:27.999 minutes) starts on Saturday (4:30 p.m. / Sky and in the live ticker on from first place, next to him in the front row is world championship leader Charles Leclerc (+0.779 seconds) in the 21 laps long sprint. “Second place is not a disaster. We will give everything tomorrow,” said Leclerc defiantly. “It was difficult. First dry, then rain, very slippery,” explained Verstappen: “One mistake and you’re in the wall. I like that.”

The starting grid for the sprint ahead of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 4. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – 6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) – 10. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
11. George Russell (Mercedes) – 12. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
13. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 14. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
15. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – 16. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
17. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) – 18. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
19. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – 20. Alexander Albon (Williams)

Surprisingly, Norris (+1.132) came third in qualifying at Imola, which was characterized by rain. The result of the sprint in turn determines the starting line-up for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday (3 p.m. / RTL and in the live ticker on

Unexpectedly at the top of the qualifying results list is Kevin Magnussen, who took fourth place (+1.165) in the Haas. Behind them are Fernando Alonso (Alpine / +1.203), Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren / +1.743), Sergio Perez (Red Bull / +1.809) and Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo / +2.440) – and then Sebastian Vettel follows in ninth place. In the meantime, the Aston Martin driver is benefiting from the numerous interruptions, but he also shows his driving class in difficult and changeable conditions. “We don’t really belong there,” said the 34-year-old on the Sky microphone: “Rain is good for us because it messes everything up.”

Mercedes frame Schumacher

Vettel is one of the beneficiaries of the momentous mistake that his successor at Ferrari makes in the second qualifying section. Carlos Sainz, who extended his contract during the week, spins in the last sector and is no longer able to prevent the lateral impact on the barriers. Sainz gets out unhurt, that But the car is drivable, and the session must be interrupted with a red flag for its recovery. Because it starts to rain during this break, nobody can improve in the remaining ten minutes.

While that means Vettel, who is eighth in Q2 at the time, has made it into Q3 for the first time this year, Sainz’s departure ended Mick Schumacher’s hopes of a sprint start in the top ten. In the hunt for the first world championship points, the Haas driver is now starting from twelfth place in the 100-kilometer race on Saturday, in which the top eight will be rewarded with something countable for the first time. The young German (“It would have been much more possible”) is framed by the Mercedes drivers George Russell in 11th position and Lewis Hamilton in 13th position. “It’s disappointing,” said Hamilton: “We didn’t show enough performance as a team .”

in the first qualifying segment the drying track had previously provided personal best times and position changes every second. The course got faster with every second, which is why Schumacher narrowly saved himself in the top 15 in the final seconds of Q1, while Hamilton escaped an even bigger disappointment and reached Q2 in 15th place – thanks to a tiny 0.004 seconds. That’s how small the lead of the record world champion over Yuki Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri.

Red Bull’s sister team, based in Faenza, just 20 minutes from Imola, are enjoying qualifying to forget. Tsunoda in 16th and Pierre Gasly in 17th need to make up places in Saturday’s sprint to put themselves in a better grid position for Sunday’s Grand Prix. A moment of shock and the first red flag was caused by Alex Albon, on whose Williams right rear brake first bursts into flames and then disintegrates into its individual parts. The former Red Bull driver starts the sprint as 20th and last – at the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, Albon worked his way into the points from the end of the field with an outstanding drive.

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