Are Red Bull in real jeopardy ahead of Imola qualifying?

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Are Red Bull in real jeopardy ahead of Imola qualifying?

After a frustrating Friday in Imola, Red Bull appear to be at genuine risk of failing to win successive Formula 1 races for the first time since July 2022.

Max Verstappen, who is seeking a fourth successive drivers’ title, could only manage seventh in second practice at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with team-mate Sergio Perez a place behind him as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topped both of the day’s sessions.

Verstappen arrived in Miami two weeks ago having won 21 of the previous 23 grands prix, but upgrades from McLaren and Ferrari are threatening to curtail one of the most dominant streaks in the sport’s history.

Lando Norris took advantage of his upgraded McLaren, and a perfectly timed Safety Car, to beat Verstappen in Miami, and Ferrari appear to have added speed to the already competitive SF-24 with a raft of new parts for this weekend.

During his and the team’s remarkable run, Verstappen has often cut a frustrated figure on a Friday before showing up on Saturday to take pole and following it with an imperious victory on a Sunday, but there was a sense that this time the challenge might be for real.

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Max Verstappen angrily gestures towards Lewis Hamilton after the Mercedes driver held him up.

Leclerc, who seemed to adapt more quickly to the changes to his Ferrari than team-mate Sainz, finished almost two tenths of a second clear of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in second.

The only driver who appeared capable of challenging the Monegasque’s leading time was Norris, who set a searing pace on a qualifying simulation of his own before running wide in the final corner.

Verstappen: It can’t be worse

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Max Verstappen suffered a challenging session after coming off the track twice during FP1 in Imola.

Verstappen went off track twice in first practice as he tried to dislodge Leclerc in the closing stages, and continued to struggle later in the afternoon despite making setup changes.

“A difficult day,” Verstappen reflected. “Just difficult to get a good balance and just not really feeling comfortable in the car. Moving around a lot, it’s very easy to lose the car.

“So yeah, a few things that we have to look at because today definitely was just bad, just not comfortable.

“Also the long run was really bad, so definitely a few things that we have to improve if we want to be competitive.”

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The best of the action from Friday’s practice ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.

Verstappen will be seeking to match Ayrton Senna’s all-time record of eight successive poles on Saturday, but didn’t appear to be hugely optimistic regarding his chances.

He added: “I guess it can’t be worse than what we had today, right?

“We’ll look at a few things that we can do better for tomorrow but it looks a bit like the others took a bit of a step forward, and from our side just a bad day.”

Leclerc confident ahead of ‘super important’ qualifying

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Charles Leclerc says the upgrades on the car are working after finishing fastest in both Friday practice sessions at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The 2022 Austrian Grand Prix which marks the last time Red Bull failed to win consecutive races is also the last time Leclerc tasted victory.

After a “very smooth” Friday, the Monegasque surely goes into the weekend with his best chance to add to his tally for a long while.

The seven aero-focused upgrades added to the car appeared to work well for him, with the front and rear wings, floor edge, sidepod inlet and diffuser among the parts updated.

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Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok and Harry Benjamin talk us through the story of Friday practice ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

“Everything went quite smoothly. The feeling with the car is good, the upgrades on the car work as expected which is also a good step,” Leclerc said.

“It’s been a very smooth day. It’s great being at home, it’s always a special feeling for Ferrari being here and having so much support means a lot to all of us.

“It will be great if the weekend continues in that direction.”

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Ride on board with Michael Schumacher as he duelled with Fernando Alonso on the final laps of the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix.

Qualifying, live on Sky Sports F1 at 3pm on Saturday, promises to be of particular importance given the difficulty of overtaking at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

“Track position is absolutely everything, so Qualifying will be super important and it will be important for us to do the job in Qualifying,” Leclerc added.

“There is still a lot of work to do and we will give it our all to have a great Qualifying.”

Norris: We are relatively quick | Russell: McLaren are favourites

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Watch the 360 footage and bottle cam of Lando Norris’ maiden F1 victory at the Miami GP for McLaren.

McLaren are set to be in the pole fight with both drivers as Oscar Piastri was less than two tenths behind Leclerc in second practice.

Norris didn’t complete a full lap on the soft tyres as he ran wide at the final corner. He had gone purple in Sectors One and Two, so would have at least been up there with Piastri and Leclerc, if not faster.

“We made a really good step from P1 to P2 Once we got comfortable, it felt pretty good out there. I think we are in a good position,” said Norris.

“We seem relatively quick. I didn’t get my lap in but I think we are in a good position. I don’t think we need to change too much, just small little tweaks and putting it altogether.”

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Lewis Hamilton and George Russell say Mercedes have found their ‘North Star’ after making to their cars ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Mercedes appear to be just behind McLaren and Ferrari, but both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were also ahead of the Red Bulls in second practice.

The team have brought more upgrades to Imola, which have been fast-tracked to the first European race of the season. Interestingly, Russell thinks McLaren are the team to beat.

“The car is feeling great. Lewis and I both had a really good feeling behind the wheel,” said Russell.

“We look reasonably competitive, slightly closer than we showed in Miami. I’m sure everyone will find out come Qualifying where we truly stand.

“I think McLaren look the favourites at the moment and are probably quickest again. They have been so fast since China.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Emilia Romagna GP schedule

Saturday May 18
9am: F3 Sprint
11:15am: Emilia Romagna GP Practice Three (session starts at 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint
2.10pm: Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying
5pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
5.30pm: Indy 500 Qualifying

F1 visits Europe for the first time in 2024 with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola

Sunday May 19
7.30am: F3 Feature Race
9am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Emilia Romagna GP build-up
4pm: Chequered Flag: Emilia Romagna GP reaction
5pm: Ted’s Notebook
8pm: Indy 500 Qualifying

Formula 1 heads to Europe as Imola returns to the calendar following last year’s cancelled race. Watch the Emilia Romagna GP this weekend, with Sunday’s race at 2pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime.

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