Piastri misses out on podium after drama-filled finish at Imola

Oscar Piastri missed his first visit to a Formula One podium this season, the Australian left reflecting on what could have been after Max Verstappen took a hard-earned victory at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Dutch Red Bull maestro Verstappen was forced to hold off Piastri’s McLaren teammate Lando Norris in a dramatic finish to Sunday’s race at Imola, winning by just 0.725 seconds at the checkered flag .

It must have left Piastri, who eventually finished fourth after a frustrating day trying to overtake a pair of Ferraris, wondering what he could have achieved if he had been able to get a clear lead on Verstappen.

Unfortunately for the Melburnian, he never got the chance after having to start fifth on the grid following a stewards’ penalty following his brilliant second place in qualifying on Saturday.

Oscar Piastri of Australia and the McLaren F1 team. (Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images)

Piastri, who had been relegated for obstructing Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in qualifying, had been faster than Norris all weekend, but his English team-mate almost followed up his first victory in Miami with a late charge on Sunday.

“I think it’s shown that we can definitely fight them,” Piastri said, putting aside any personal disappointment.

It was a familiar story, however, as Verstappen took his fifth victory in seven races this season, the 59th of his career and the third in a row at Imola.

“I no longer had any grip. I was slipping a lot. I saw Lando approaching. The last 10 laps were full speed,” said a relieved Verstappen, who looked set for another easy victory but ultimately had to sweat for the spoils as Norris closed in.

“It’s difficult when the tires no longer work and you have to go flat out. I couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes. Luckily we didn’t.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third on the Italian team’s atmospheric home track, 7.916 off the pace, but still did enough to keep Piastri at bay.

The victory extended Verstappen’s lead in the championship to 48 points, with Leclerc now his closest rival after Red Bull’s Sergio Perez started 11th and finished just eighth.

Behind Piastri was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who had delayed the Australian early in the race, and the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, sixth and seventh.

Piastri’s Australian colleague Daniel Ricciardo, with his RB, could only finish in 13th place, three places behind his teammate Yuki Tsunoda.

Norris, who had reduced the gap to just 1.1 seconds on the final lap, was left reflecting on his near-miss with the observation: “It pains me to say that one or two more laps I think I would have had it.

“It would have been beautiful, but not today.

“But now we are at a point where we can say that we are in the position of Ferrari and Red Bull. We have to get used to it. Now we are fighting for first and second.”

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