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Imola: Leclerc’s Persistence Pays Off Amid McLaren & Red Bull Rivalry

There’s a new kid in town, Lando Norris who’s kicking up a storm … and his team-mate from McLaren, Oscar Piastri too. That’s making it difficult at the moment for Leclerc to grab one of the top two places on the podium. But Charles is still in there fighting in the top three in the Championship.

Ferrari engineers have not yet provided Monegasque Charles Leclerc with a performance package that lets him breathe down leader Max Verstappen’s neck. All credit to Charles that despite this he lies in second place in the Championship.

McLaren’s engineers have suddenly been able to do for Lando Norris what Ferrari has yet to do for Charles. And it showed in Florida and Miami where Norris had his first glorious Formula 1 win. He’s tasted blood and now won’t go away. So, McLaren must be now considered one of the teams closest placed to Red Bull. Turnarounds are not just the stuff of dreams … they are really possible! The McLaren team were toward the back of the grid at this point last season. Sweet it is that they have catapulted themselves into competition.

Monaco’s ace Charles still has high hopes, and Ferrari did give him enough support to get on the podium, just not right at the top where his fans feel he should belong.
He now has to contend not only with Red Bull but also McLaren. Charles was chasing Lando well at times trying to put him under pressure. But Emilia Romagna is a difficult track to overtake on, a fantastic track but narrower than most. In the end Red Bull and McLaren proved too strong. Charles is optimistic though when he looks at the data … as Ferrari were losing mostly only in the straights. Ferrari will be looking into that as it’s nothing that is not possible to change. Once that is fixed , and Charles believes Ferrari can fix it, he has a real shot of going back on the top step of the podium.

As it happened for Leclerc and Ferrari

The Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz started both on the second row of the grid.

They’re off. The Ferraris hold position off the line behind Max Verstappen and Lando Norris.
Lap 23. Norris pits, Charles and Carlos move up to second and third.
Lap 25. Now Verstappen changes tyres so Leclerc and Sainz are first and second. If only it could stay that way!
Lap 26. Charles pits for hard tyres and rejoins fourth behind Sergio Perez.
Lap 27. Leclerc passes Perez to go third. Sainz pits, rejoining sixth behind Oscar Piastri.
Lap 30. Carlos passes Perez for fifth.
Finish. The gaps between the top five are very close in the final part of the race, but there are no more changes of position and so it finishes in the order, Verstappen, Norris, Charles, Piastri and Carlos. Third place on the podium for Leclerc at Emilia Romagna. More points and Charles edges out Perez for second place in the Championship.

Max Verstappen and Red Bull

Max Verstappen had to overcame late race tyre wear to only just hold off Lando Norris. He now has a hat-trick of Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix wins. Though this time he was less than a second ahead of the McLaren driver, with Leclerc third for Ferrari.

Pérez would not make it in contention but he did put in a fight to make eighth place at the flag after starting from P11 on the grid.

Verstappen’s 5th victory of 2024 started with Max charging ahead of fellow front-grid starter Norris. However, after controlling matters for the bulk of the race, in the final 10 laps the Dutchman’s tyres began to fade. Norris did everything to close in and got within DRS range to overtake. Though Verstappen was visibly struggling for grip he just managed to keep the RB20 on course to hold on and breathe a sigh of relief for his 59th career win. He had to work hard for that, just as he had done in Qualifying to win pole position on the grid.

Senna’s Record Equalled

Max Verstappen pulled off a Qualifying run he believed was his best for more than five years to claim pole position for this Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, delivering a superb lap under immense pressure that raised him to stand alongside Ayrton Senna with a record eighth consecutive pole.

It’s the 30th anniversary of Senna’s death at Imola. Verstappen’s eight poles in a row, starting with Abu Dhabi last year, match the record Senna set between the Spanish Grand Prix in 1988 and the US Grand Prix in 1989.

Leclerc Second in the Championship

All credit to Charles Leclerc for his third place on the podium and current second place in the Championship. Charles’ final words:

“Of course, I’m only very happy when I win.”

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