ax Verstappen will start first on the grid for Saturday’s sprint race after taking pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in a stop-start qualifying session.
A record-breaking five red flags were brought out in changing conditions at Imola, the last denying Charles Leclerc a shot at jumping Verstappen.
The Ferrari driver, who leads the Formula One world championship, will start second in the 100km dash that will decide the grid for Sunday’s race, ahead of Lando Norris after teammate Carlos Sainz crashed out.
Lewis Hamilton starts 13th only scraped through the first session by four thousandths of a second as the Mercedes’ porpoising issues continued to be compounded by the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari.
Q1 was interruped by the first red flag when Alex Albon’s right-rear brake caught fire and exploded across the track as he nursed his Williams home. Q2 was also stopped after most drivers had only put in one lap.
Carlos Sainz, fresh from signing a two-year extension to his contract with Ferrari, spun out at the final turn and hit the tyre barrier.
The crash came moments before rain fell at Imola, leaving Hamilton and George Russell in the dropzone and without fit conditions for putting in an improved time.
Kevin Magnussen ensured every session had a red flag to call its own when spinning off at Acque Minerali before any times had been set in Q3. After a brief respite of track action, Valtteri Bottas provided a record-equalling fourth red flag when his Alfa Romeo stopped down the back straight.
Verstappen had posted a 1:27.999 despite being told to slow for a yellow flag and, after the restart, Norris hit the wall with only 40 seconds left – confirming the Dutchman’s pole position.