Max Verstappen holds off Lando Norris surge in gripping Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix finale

Dutchman needed all his skill to stay ahead of British driver after Red Bull’s tyres wear down, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc coming in third

Max Verstappen took victory at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix but only after a spectacular finale when the Red Bull driver was hunted to the flag by McLaren’s Lando Norris, who could not quite make the move and finished in second, with the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc third.

Oscar Piastri was fourth for McLaren and Carlos Sainz fifth for Ferrari, while the Mercedes pair of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton made little impact, finishing in sixth and seventh.

The win had looked to be a solid if unspectacular affair for Verstappen, only for late drama to unfold as he was chased down by Norris at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Verstappen had to use all his skill to hold off the British driver – who won at the last round in Miami – and did so but only by a whisker. His lead was seven-tenths of a second at the flag, by far the closest finishing margin this season and indeed for several years.

Having held his lead from the off the Dutchman had opened a gap and held it with control as behind him the narrow track and close margins ensured much of the race was something of a procession. The chasing cars were close to one another but none held a sufficient pace advantage to make passing viable. However, in the final 10 laps, as Verstappen’s tyres went off, Norris charged at him but just ran out of time – a valiant and brilliant effort that delivered the best one-on-one fight of the season.


With Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Pérez managing only eighth, Verstappen has extended his lead in the title race to 48 points now over Leclerc in second.

After a weekend in which Red Bull had struggled to come to grips with their set-up as they adapted to a raft of upgrades brought to Imola – the car lacking grip and balance until they turned it around for qualifying – this will be seen as a win they and ultimately Verstappen really had to grind out and indicative of how he and Red Bull remain operationally adaptive and effective to an extraordinary level.

Verstappen now has five wins from seven races this season and has yet to be beaten to pole. His third win at Imola is the 59th of his career.

Verstappen held his lead on the short dash to turn one and Norris went hard but the world champion held his line and – vitally on a circuit where overtaking is fiendishly difficult – the place.

Norris had to stay with Verstappen but the Dutchman was pushing hard to open a gap beyond DRS range in the opening laps. However, he was unable to sprint off into the distance as he had in the opening meetings. The McLaren is patently a better car now and Norris had stayed within 1.8 seconds by lap six, settling for not overworking his tyres given a pass at this stage was beyond him.

Yet Verstappen was inexorable once more, putting in a series of fastest laps and incrementally opening the lead with metronomic control, relentless in his consistency.

As they cycled through the only pit stops of the race Verstappen looked to have it sewn up, with a six-second lead and having taken a warning for exceeding track limits, chose discretion over valour, eased off to maintain the gap without having to push too hard.

Yet as the laps counted down there was a sting in the tail. Norris was able to up the pace, after he had been advised by his team to go easy on his tyres early in his second stint. By lap 55 he turned up the wick and the gap came tumbling down. Verstappen’s tyres were gone, the six-second lead became three, then just over one second with three laps remaining.

Norris was hurling everything at it, Verstappen similarly putting his all into keeping the car on track and in front. Norris could see his rival, the gap at a fraction over a second on the penultimate lap.

A nail-biting final lap ensued. Norris was within DRS range but unable to move close enough to pass. Verstappen had held his nerve and the win – but only just, as McLaren and Norris served notice that he will not have everything his own way this season.

Lance Stroll was ninth for Aston Martin and Yuki Tsunoda 10th for RB.