Horner says it’s “fitting” that “very special driver” Verstappen matched Senna’s record of consecutive F1 poles at Imola

Photo Credit: Red Bull Racing
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After a race in Miami that saw the third different winner this year, and finally gave Lando Norris his long-awaited first victory, Formula 1 resumed action at the Imola circuit for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

It looked like a complicated weekend for Max Verstappen and company, when the World Champion scored P5 in FP1, P7 in FP2 and P6 for FP3, while exclaiming at the end of his day on Friday that it had been “difficult to get a good balance” and that he was “just not feeling comfortable in the car, moving around a lot”. He had been off the track 3 times during FP1 and FP2.

The Red Bull driver was a lot happier at the end of Saturday as the Dutchman and his team managed to turn around their performance and score pole position in Imola.

Signs of improvement were there on the mediums in final practice. However, it took until qualifying until they found a good balance on the soft. He topped all three qualifying segments.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner praised Verstappen, Sebastien Buemi and the whole team back for turning things around as they looked third quickest through the practice sessions.

The former Formula E and WEC champion has been a mainstay at Red Bull for many years, with the Swiss driver helping on the sim alongside fellow Formula E World Champion Jake Dennis.

“We were, you know, in a difficult position yesterday. The car wasn’t performing as we were hoping.

“Some great work last night with Sebastian Buemi and the simulator and the team working into the early hours… I think we made a good step forward this morning in third practice. Then, another good step in quali.

“But then, Max, to deliver the way he did was truly, truly outstanding.

“I think that Max has really managed to extract the very, very most out of the car. And the margins are so fine. You could even see him using the tow of his mate, Nico Hülkenberg, as he started that lap — that gave him half a tenth into the turn one.”

With this achievement, Verstappen also holds another record, as he equalled Ayrton Senna’s 8 consecutive pole positions between 1988 and 1989. The 26-year-old has achieved it in a streak that began in Abu Dhabi in 2023 and continues following yesterday’s pole.

Verstappen is normally quite calm after taking poles, but the Dutchman was properly fired up yesterday on the radio and celebrated hard in Parc Fermé, showing the monumental effort everyone at Red Bull Racing made to turn things around.

“Oh, absolutely. And you could hear what it meant to Max.

“He had to really dig deep for that one and work very hard. And he’s a very special driver in the same way that Ayrton was. And fitting that he matches that record here at the circuit where he [Senna] sadly lost his life.

“It puts him in a great place to start. But the McLarens and the Ferraris are so, so close. So it’s going to be a very, very tight race,” Horner concluded.