McLaren rues grid penalty after brilliant performance in Imola

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Emilia Romagna, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrariit

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella rues the grid drop penalty that will see Oscar Piastri lose his second starting position, but took delight from his team's eye-catching performance.

Hot on the heels of his first grand prix victory, Lando Norris has had a packed weekend so far in Imola. The Briton was asked to carry out aerodynamic tests on Friday, while he failed to put a good lap together on his qualifying simulation runs during the three practice sessions.

The Briton then delivered when it really mattered, getting his act together in qualifying, although it was only enough for third spot on the grid despite only missing a tenth of a second from Max Verstappen's pole position time.

The Bristol-born driver will, however, move up on the grid by a spot following a three-place grid penalty for his team-mate Oscar Piastri.

"As a team we’ve had a very good day – and a good weekend so far. P3 is not a bad job at all and both of us are within a tenth of pole - tiny, tiny margins. Oscar's done a great job, and so did Max.

"It’s going to be a good race tomorrow. It’ll be exciting in the car and hopefully exciting to watch. A lot of it will be down to Turn 1, Lap 1, getting the right strategy, and having good pit stops. We're close, it’s very exciting and I can't wait for tomorrow.”

Piastri topped the timesheets during an eventful third practice session earlier in the day, and the Australian continued to show good pace when it came to qualifying. While he was unable to beat Verstappen’s benchmark of a 1m 14.746s, his final effort was only 0.074s off, putting him alongside the Dutchman on the front row.

However, he will lose his second place on the grid due to a penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen in the first segment of qualifying.

“I’m really happy with the performance today. We were so close to pole on track. I've been really comfortable with the car from the moment we put it on track yesterday and I am enjoying my first GP weekend here.

'We've definitely been on the pace all weekend and the confidence is high. It is a shame to lose the front row and having to start from P5 as it’s not the easiest track to overtake on. However, we will try our best to recover some positions and fight to finish on the podium."

McLaren's team boss Andrea Stella accepted the stewards' decision as he takes delight from his team's brilliant pace. The Italian is hopeful that his drivers can maintain their competitiveness in the race tomorrow.

“After a strong performance in Miami, it was important to confirm that competitiveness was genuine. Imola has very different demands, with a fast-flowing layout and a bumpy surface. It’s a big positive that we have also been competitive here, and able to fight for pole position today.”

“We had a very strong result in Qualifying. Both drivers performed very well, and we were close to Red Bull, which is encouraging. Unfortunately, Oscar will start P5 after receiving a penalty. We respect and accept the decision of the stewards and, with a strong pace in the car, we look forward to recovering those lost positions with Oscar, while capitalising on Lando’s front row start,' said Stella.