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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit on May 19, 2024 in Imola, Italy.
IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit on May 19, 2024 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Verstappen ‘driving on ice’ on hard tyre stint during Imola F1 GP

The Dutchman barely kept Lando Norris behind, after the Dutchman conceded a seven second lead to a seven-tenth lead at the end

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Max Verstappen described that he was “driving on ice” on his last stint on the hard tyre, during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 leads Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit on May 19, 2024 in Imola, Italy.
Norris gained seven seconds and was in DRS range on the final lap (Image Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Verstappen narrowly held on to pip Lando Norris to the chequered flag. The McLaren driver narrowed the gap from seven seconds to seven tenths. The Dutchman gapped the Briton with the medium tyre. However, he claimed that he “couldn’t turn” with the hard tyre.

Verstappen revealed that his issue with the hard tyre was not keeping it in the right operating window. The lack of grip almost led to him crashing at Turn Seven’s Tosa Hairpin, the Dutchman claims.

Almost ended in the grandstands

Verstappen was happy with the medium tyre, but the hard tyre was a different story.

“On the mediums it was very good. But then as soon as I swapped to the hard tyres, maybe not the first five to 10 laps but after that, I was like: ‘I’m not sure I can bring this to the end’.

Verstappen claimed that he “almost ended up in the grandstands” during his hard tyre stint with the lack of grip:

“The tyres just fell out of the operating window and it was just like driving on ice, really snappy.

“At Turn 7 I almost ended up in the grandstands, for my feeling, at some point. So, it was just very difficult, really weird lines that I had to take.”

Doubts over keeping Norris behind

Previous races would have saw Verstappen cruise to victory, after building a seven second margin during the first stint. However, McLaren have significantly upgraded its MCL38, putting the pressure on Red Bull now.

Norris was initially struggling for pace on the hard tyre – Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc close the Briton down into DRS range. However, the McLaren driver dropped the Monegasque and close Verstappen down all the way to seven tenths behind at the chequered flag.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 takes the chequered flag during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit on May 19, 2024 in Imola, Italy.
This race shows how much close McLaren have got to Red Bull since their upgrades in Miami (Image Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The three-time world champion admitted he had doubts about keeping Norris behind but focused on getting a good exit onto Imola’s main straight, which was the only possible overtaking opportunity for the Briton.

“I was really trying to survive at the time, and then suddenly Lando really picked up pace,” Verstappen explained.

“I could see him catch up and I was not sure if I could keep him behind. As soon as it was half a second lap, that’s a lot.

“But on the other hand, you can’t do anything about it. You cannot suddenly try and force a half a second out of it when you don’t have to balance.

“I was just trying to really not make mistakes, drive around the balance issues and be quick on the straight. With the rear wing we had, we were quite fast on the straight.”

Another issue Verstappen had to worry about was keeping all four of his wheels on track. One more offence would have led to a five-second time penalty for track limits.

“I was understeering a lot on the medium and that was pushing me off sometimes if I missed the apex,” he explained his three track limits offences.

“After that was leaving a bit more margin. The last few laps when Lando was catching were a bit harder, because I had to use the track as much as I could.

“It does require a bit more focus, so every exit you have to be really sure what you’re doing.”

Feature Image Credit: Lars Baron via Getty Images

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