Max Verstappen Dominates Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and Virtual Race

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Imola, Italy — Max Verstappen continues to assert his dominance both on and off the track. The reigning Formula 1 champion fended off a strong challenge from McLaren’s Lando Norris to secure victory at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday, further extending his lead in the championship standings.

Verstappen’s impressive weekend included a win in an online 24-hour race, which he participated in from a simulator set up in the Imola paddock. This double triumph marked his second victory of the day, reinforcing his status as the driver to beat.

Starting from pole position, Verstappen maintained his lead at the start and successfully held off Norris’s advances, particularly during the closing laps. He clinched his 59th career win by a margin of less than a second.

“Especially the last 10, 15 laps, I had no grip anymore. I was really sliding a lot. I saw Lando closing in,” Verstappen said. “It’s very difficult when the tires are not working anymore and you have to go flat out, so I couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily, we didn’t and super happy, of course, to win here today.”

This weekend’s race also carried emotional weight as Formula 1 commemorated the late Ayrton Senna, a three-time champion who tragically died at Imola 30 years ago. Verstappen’s victory was his fifth in seven races this season, coming on the heels of a narrow defeat to Norris in Miami two weeks prior.

Norris’s second-place finish underscored McLaren’s growing competitiveness as a challenger to Verstappen and Red Bull this season. “It hurts me to say it, but one or two more laps, I think I would have had him,” Norris admitted. “It would have been beautiful, but just not today.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc secured third place, marking the Italian team’s first podium finish at Imola since 2006, ahead of their home race in Monaco next week. The narrow track and recent changes to key corners, which replaced asphalt run-off areas with gravel traps, made overtaking particularly challenging.

Leclerc, who closed in on Norris mid-race but lost time after a mistake, finished ahead of Oscar Piastri. Piastri, who initially qualified second for McLaren but was demoted to fifth due to a penalty, ultimately finished fourth after a strong performance in the pit stops.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his teammate George Russell finished sixth and seventh, respectively, after a difficult weekend for Mercedes. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, started 11th after a qualifying error and finished eighth, briefly holding up Norris and Leclerc post-pit stops and indirectly aiding Verstappen.

Yuki Tsunoda took ninth for AlphaTauri, while Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten for Aston Martin.

With this victory, Verstappen has extended his standings lead to 48 points over Leclerc, who now sits in second place. McLaren, which had a slow start to the season, has shown rapid improvement, with Norris holding fourth place in the standings, 60 points behind Verstappen. – AP