Max Verstappen sees off McLaren challenge to match Ayrton Senna’s pole record

Max Verstappen saw off McLaren’s challenge to match Ayrton Senna’s record of eight consecutive pole positions for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

At the Imola venue which claimed Senna’s life 30 years ago, Verstappen’s drew level with the great Brazilian.

Oscar Piastri took second for McLaren – just 0.074 seconds behind Verstappen – with Lando Norris, who broke his duck in Miami a fortnight ago, only 0.091 sec adrift.

However, Piastri could face a grid penalty for blocking Haas’s Kevin Magnussen in Q1.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz qualified fourth and fifth respectively for Ferrari, with George Russell sixth – half-a-second behind – and two places ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Senna’s streak started for McLaren in Jerez in 1988 and ended in Phoenix the following season, but at the race marking the anniversary of the triple world champion’s death, Verstappen set a blistering pace to drive into the history books.

Verstappen headed into the final runs with a slender 0.073-sec advantage over Norris but he improved his time to keep McLaren at bay.

Norris had looked set to join Verstappen on the front row, but the British driver was usurped by Piastri.

The Australian though could be penalised after he got in Kevin Magnussen’s way in Q1, with a stewards’ investigation underway.

“It’s 30 years since he passed away, so it is very special and I am very pleased to get pole and in a way, it’s a nice memory to him,” said Verstappen on equalling Senna’s feat.

“He was an incredible F1 driver, especially in qualifying. A great day for him, a great day for the team. I’m very, very happy.”

Norris added: “P3 is not a bad job and we were within a tenth of P1. It is tiny margins but the team has had a very good weekend. It is exciting because it is close and I cannot wait until tomorrow.”

Fernando Alonso will start last-but-one following an unusually scrappy day.

Fernando Alonso qualifying during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Fernando Alonso starts 19th on the grid (David Davies/PA)

Qualifying appeared in doubt after he crashed out of final practice and sustained significant damage to the rear of his machine.

But although his car was put back together in time for Alonso to take part, the Spaniard scuppered his chances after he ran through the gravel on his hot lap to leave him at the back of the field.

Only Logan Sargeant will line up behind Alonso after the Williams driver’s best lap was deleted for exceeding track limits. Sergio Perez, who like Alonso hit the wall in practice, failed to make it out of Q2, qualifying 11th.