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Max Verstappen

Verstappen 'lucky' after finding Imola 'tow buddy'

Would Max Verstappen have secured pole position at Imola without a tow from his 'buddy'?

Verstappen pole Imola
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen has been described as "a little bit lucky" in securing a 'tow buddy' to secure the three-time F1 champion a historic pole position at Imola.

Red Bull driver Verstappen matched the records of two motorsport legends in Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, turning around his "bad day" on Friday when he was far from happy with his RB20.

Verstappen pipped McLaren's Oscar Piastri by 0.074s to secure his eighth consecutive pole position, equalling Senna's mark, and his seventh to start a season, drawing level with Prost.

Piastri was later handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Haas' Kevin Magnussen, and will start fifth. Team-mate Lando Norris was only 0.091s behind Verstappen, however, ensuring the tow he received from Nico Hulkenberg in Q3 was crucial.

"We were tow buddies out there, in Q2 already, [and] Q3," said Verstappen regarding Hulkenberg. "I gave him a tow to [Turn] 17, then he gave me a tow to Turn 2.

"I think I arrived a bit too quick for my liking because I did miss Turn 2 a little bit. So I did gain, then I did lose a bit in 2. Overall, I think it did help me a little bit.

"But when you are struggling the whole weekend and then finally it's coming around, you have to look for these little advantages to try and stay ahead, and it worked out beautifully."

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said: "A tow at a track with these characteristics can happen. He [Verstappen] was a little lucky there."

Stella went on to state that "many factors" can come into play when the gap between the polesitter and his closest challengers are so narrow. He did at least give credit where it was due, adding: "This doesn't detract from the fact that he deserves to be on pole."

'I'd rather qualify eight-tenths ahead'

By the end of qualifying, Verstappen had been pushed closer than in any other session this season by a rival driver. It was in stark contrast to many where he has finished a comfortable two-or three-tenths of a second quicker.

As to whether dominating qualifying or being given a stern test of his one-lap credentials was satisfying, there was only one answer.

"I would rather qualify eight-tenths ahead, but that's not possible," said Verstappen, before highlighting what Red Bull managed to achieve given the performance of his car on Friday.

"It is very enjoyable when you have a turnaround like we had. So I was really excited in qualifying, and really happy when I heard that we were on pole.

"It was great that it was that close and that we really, really had to fight for it. But I still come back to the first point. I would rather qualify with a lot in front! That's how it goes, right?

"I guess sometimes you have weekends where everything really comes together and then the car becomes unbelievable to drive, and it doesn't matter what you do, it just feels fantastic, and you can do some really special laps, which have happened in the past.

"But this was also really cool."

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