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Formula 1 Emilia Romagna GP

Verstappen credits "tow buddy" Hulkenberg for help to grab Imola F1 pole

Max Verstappen says "tow buddy" Nico Hulkenberg played a part in the Red Bull driver grabbing pole for Formula 1's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Verstappen and Red Bull had appeared on the back foot in Imola all weekend, but after turning around their car set-up, Verstappen came up with a big lap when it mattered and held off McLaren duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris for his eighth successive pole.

Verstappen effectively clinched his pole on the straight, with faster top speeds helping him arrive at Turn 2, Tamburello, with a gap twice as big as Piastri's eventual 0.074s gap.

Not all, but some of that top speed bonus was courtesy of Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who Verstappen called his "tow buddy" after he had given the German a draft in Q2.

"We were tow buddies out there," Verstappen grinned when asked by Autosport about the benefit Hulkenberg had given him.

"In Q2, I gave him a tow to Turn 17. Then he gave me a tow to Turn 2. I think I did arrive a bit too quick for my liking because I did miss Turn 2 a little bit, so I did gain and then I did lose a bit in 2.

"Overall, I think it did help me a little bit. But when you are struggling the whole weekend and then finally it's coming around, you have to look for these little advantages to try and stay ahead and it worked out beautifully."

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24, in the pit lane

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24, in the pit lane

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen and Hulkenberg's unlikely partnership was more spontaneous than planned, as the German chose to head out much earlier for Q3's final flyer to avoid getting stuck in traffic on his out-lap.

That led to him passing Verstappen on his qualifying into the final Rivazza complex, while the Dutchman was bringing his tyres up to temperature.

Verstappen handily tucked behind the Haas coming onto the final straight while Hulkenberg kept going full throttle after the finish line, despite his qualifying session being over.

"Max and I, we've been helping each other out this quali," Hulkenberg told Sky Sports F1 about repaying Verstappen.

"He helped me a few times in Q2 and I returned the favour here [in Q3]. So yeah, you need the support of colleagues sometimes."

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble

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