Verstappen 'still pumping' after equalling Senna pole record

Max Verstappen "pumping" after matching Ayrton Senna's pole record (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)
Max Verstappen "pumping" after matching Ayrton Senna's pole record (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)

Max Verstappen admitted he was "still pumping" with commitment and intensity on Saturday after the emotion of equalling Ayrton Senna's record of claiming eight consecutive pole positions in qualifying for Sunday's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

It was a confession that revealed the determination of the three-time champion to recover his performance after struggling with the set-up of his Red Bull car.

"It was a really difficult lap," said the Dutchman after qualifying at Imola, three decades on from the accident that claimed Senna's life at the circuit.

"The weekend so far and even this morning… so difficult. I am incredibly happy to be on pole here. I didn't expect it, but we made some final set-up changes before qualifying.

"It seemed to work, to make it feel a bit better and I could push harder."

Thirty years after the death of the three-time champion Brazilian during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Verstappen was poignantly aware of the significance of his hard-earned achievement.

"It is a great start to the year for me and it's also very special that it is 30 years since he passed away at this track.

"So, of course, I am very pleased to get pole here and in a way it’s a nice memory to him.

"He was an incredible Formula One driver especially in qualifying laps as well so it's a great day for me and a great day for the team. I am very, very happy.

"This track is unbelievable for a qualifying lap, to be on the limit, being this close to the gravel. I touched the gravel in the last corner! And I am still pumping – the adrenaline is very, very high."

As an afficionado of 'old school' Formula One, Verstappen carried special respect for Senna whose racing career left a far-reaching legacy – one that inspired many of the current grid.

It was the 39th pole position of his career and his second at Imola and, on a narrow, bumpy and technical track where overtaking is at a premium, a key advantage for Sunday’s race.

Verstappen's run of poles dates back to last year's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and he will have an opportunity to establish a new record at next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

"He was an incredible human as well as a driver," said Verstappen of Senna.

"It’s a very special pole for me."

Verstappen, who is joined on Sunday's front row by the McLaren of Oscar Piastri, leads the world championship by 33 points after four wins out of six this season.