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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix talking points: Verstappen shines as Red Bull become more vulnerable

Another race in F1 is in the history books with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix done and dusted.


While it may not have been the greatest race we have ever witnessed, it still brought about plenty of talking points to discuss.


Let’s get to them.


One of Verstappen’s finest-ever drives


It’s pretty easy to overlook just how great Max Verstappen is given the level of dominance he has showcased over the last two and a bit seasons.


That is particularly the case when we’re just so used to him winning, that we all just assume we’ll be listening to the Dutch and Austrian national anthems every second week on a Sunday evening.


But there has to be a lot said about just how incredible his win was at Imola.


The Red Bull wasn’t the fastest car for most of the weekend. If anything it was third best, struggling to match the pace of the McLaren’s and Ferrari’s in most of the sessions.


That made the lap that Verstappen pulled out for pole remarkable, a lap that kept his perfect pole streak alive in 2024.


Then in the race itself, it looked as though things were status quo for the Dutchman, as he led off the start and looked to romp to another victory.


(Photo by Getty Images)


That was until the last stint when Lando Norris was able to get the most out of his tyres while Verstappen’s faded quicker than the dreams of Ferrari fans on any given weekend.


Verstappen was able to withstand the pressure from Norris behind and scraped through for the narrowest of victories, proving his skill behind the wheel can overcome any faults and pace differentials that the RB20 is slowly beginning to show.


An incredible drive from an incredible driver.


McLaren is in the title hunt


It’s weird to mention the words ‘title hunt’ in modern F1 but there is still one going on and the cars covered in papaya are best placed to make it happen even more.


Since the breakthrough win for Norris in Miami, it has seemingly unleashed the beast that has been building up at Woking for some time now, and not only have they emerged as the second-best team but emerged as a real threat to Red Bull as we continue on in 2024.


We’ve only had seven rounds of a 24-round season, meaning there is still more than two-thirds of the season to play out.


Given that McLaren also has two drivers fighting at the front compared to Red Bull, who has Sergio Perez seemingly losing some of that early season form once more, we could be in for some exciting battles to come for the rest of the year.


That also means Ferrari can still be in the hunt too, as the red cars are still fast enough to keep up with McLaren and Red Bull across most weekends.


There are currently only 60 points separating Max Verstappen in first and Lando Norris in fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, while only 114 points separate Red Bull in first and McLaren in third in the Constructors’.


A year ago, after round seven, Verstappen had an 83-point buffer to fourth, while Red Bull had a 153-point buffer to third, showing that we are in a much better spot in the championship than 12 months ago.


For all non-Red Bull F1 fans, and McLaren fans in particular, that is music to their ears.


Not the best race, but keep the classic circuits, please


Sure the race at Imola in 2024 won’t go down in history as an all-time classic, but how great is it to see F1 cars race around the historic circuit?


I for one was so excited when it was announced back in 2020 that Formula 1 would be returning to Imola, and even more excited when they decided to leave it on the calendar moving forward.


There is a beauty to the circuit that I’ve always enjoyed, and while it does have a dark history after the events of 1994, it’s a circuit that most F1 fans love and admire.


For the Tifosi as well to have a second circuit to celebrate the passion they have for Ferrari is also great to witness; if there is one team that deserves a second race to cheer their cars on, it’s absolutely Ferrari.


Let’s hope Imola will remain a permanent spot on the calendar for many years to come, hopefully with an improved name as well.


Stroll once again overlooked


Yeah, it’s been two rounds since I’ve talked about him, so I had to bring him up eventually right?


Lance Stroll had a fantastic race on Sunday to celebrate his 150th Grand Prix, although, of course, it was barely mentioned by anybody who covered or watched the race.


After starting 13th, Stroll slowly made his way through the field to be on the fringe of the points, before a strong last stint saw him pull off a string of overtakes to finish in ninth place and bring home two points.


Given the struggles his teammate Fernando Alonso had all weekend, it was a strong showing for the Canadian who was able to make the most out of the upgrades Aston Martin brought to the race that seemingly weren’t up to the standards both drivers had expected.


His performance once again showcases his talent and what he is capable of when he is able to string it all together, and the radio silence around it again proves that he is a driver that nobody is ever willing to talk compliment when he doesn’t fit the narrative that is so blatantly sold around him.


(Photo by Getty Images)


The driver market is even more fascinating than we thought


Seriously, could we be in for the best-ever silly season in F1 history?


As soon as Lewis Hamilton jumped shipped to Ferrari, it set into motion the scope for an epic driver market like we had never seen before.


Since then we have had even more intrigue, with Nico Hulkenberg returning to Sauber and Fernando Alonso staying put at Aston Martin with a multiple-year deal.


We also have Alex Albon staying at Williams, meaning a couple of big players aren’t on the move as expected.


There are presently 11 seats up for grabs for 2024, meaning that more than half the grid is yet to be confirmed for 2025.


Added to this the continued whispers around Max Verstappen possibly leaving Red Bull, things really could be set to get even more spicy than they already have been.


Wherever it all lands, we will be in a much different place than we were at the beginning of 2024, which will be a fresh step into something new for 2025.


Bring it on!


This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here

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