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Emilia Romagna GP: Pole-sitter Max Verstappen vows to improve start; Charles Leclerc seeks tyre 'cure'

Max Verstappen lost the lead to Charles Leclerc after a poor start in Saturday's Sprint; Verstappen passed Leclerc late to secure pole position for Sunday's race in Imola; watch the Emilia Romagna GP live on Sky Sports F1 from 12:30pm on Sunday

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Watch the dramatic start to the Sprint Race at the Emilia-Romagna GP, where Charles Leclerc leads passed Max Verstappen off the line

Max Verstappen has vowed to work out how to right his poor start in the Emilia Romagna GP Sprint after earning the chance to start on pole again in Sunday's race.

Verstappen took pole for Red Bull in wet qualifying conditions on Friday in Imola, but gave up the lead to Charles Leclerc after a terrible getaway in Saturday's Sprint.

A superb overtake on the penultimate lap ensured Verstappen claimed the maximum eight points on offer, but perhaps more importantly, that he will start in front of world championship leader Leclerc when more points are available on Sunday.

"The start was very poor and we need to analyse why it happened like that because I think all the (practice) starts I actually did this weekend have been quite good, so (it was) a bit weird," Verstappen said.

"When I let the clutch go, just a lot of wheel spin and no traction. So my start was very, very poor."

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Verstappen pulls off an amazing overtake on Leclerc to earn himself the win in the Sprint

Asked whether starting on the dirtier side of the grid, where he will be again on Sunday, was a factor, Verstappen pointed to evidence of Lando Norris's strong launch behind him.

"I mean Lando had a decent start, so there's no excuse," Verstappen added.

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"My start was just terrible. I didn't have gear sync for whatever reason. So, yeah, I need to see exactly what went wrong."

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Verstappen says Red Bull need to analyse his poor start but 'good tyre deg' saved them as they claimed victory in the Sprint

Leclerc hopes for tyre 'cure'

The principal reason Verstappen was able to regain the lead was the degradation of Leclerc's tyres, which saw the Ferrari struggle in the closing stages.

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That was despite the deployment of the safety car on the opening lap, triggered by a clash between Zhou Guanyu and Pierre Gasly, which saw three of the 21 laps driven at reduced speed.

Even with the extra cushion provided by that interruption, Leclerc was powerless to fight back once Verstappen passed, and would have been vulnerable to an attack from the third-placed Red Bull of Sergio Perez had the race been any longer.

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Leclerc said he 'paid the price for pushing to hard' after he lost lead in the final laps of the Sprint

While different weather conditions (showers are forecast around race-time) and the possible use of different tyre compounds could alter the landscape on Sunday, Leclerc admits that Ferrari will need to "cure" their degradation issues one way or another.

"I think the pace is quite similar [between Red Bull and Ferrari]," said Leclerc, who has won two of the first three races this season and is 40 points clear in the drivers' world championship.

"What made the difference at the end was the graining phase that I went through.

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Verstappen wins the Sprint Race at the Emilia-Romagna GP

"If we manage to cure that all for tomorrow, I'm pretty sure that we're in the fight for the win. If not, it's going to be a bit more difficult."

Verstappen also added that he was far from sure his tyre advantage would remain.

"We will use some other compounds and probably the deg will be a bit lower on that," Verstappen said. "So I expect the battle to be closer tomorrow."

Will Perez and Sainz feature in 'chess game'?

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Carlos Sainz comes out on top of an all-Spanish battle against his compatriot Fernando Alonso during the Sprint

Another potentially key element in Sunday's race will be the performances of Perez, and the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, who start alongside each other on the second row of the grid.

Both produced strong Sprint performances, with Perez climbing from seventh to third and Sainz from 10th to fourth after his crash in qualifying on Friday.

If either can keep pace with the front two, they could provide their team with additional strategic options.

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Sergio Perez reflects on a strong performance in the Sprint and says Red Bull will be looking for a one-two finish in Sunday's race

Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies is predicting a "chess game".

"It's a different equation tomorrow," Mekies said. "We will learn from what happened. We all had limited running on the dry.

"Every team has almost all tyre options available because we ran so little on Friday, meaning we can do all strategies. It will be a good chess game tomorrow."

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Sainz said he did the 'maximum' he could do after moving up from tenth to fourth in the Sprint

Sky Sports F1's Paul Di Resta believes Perez has more chance of making an impact than Sainz, but isn't ruling out Ferrari turning the tables on Red Bull.

"It just depends where Perez can get involved as well," Di Resta said.

"Can he put more damage in a difficult Ferrari day tomorrow or are the tyres going to come back to Ferrari with different temperatures?"

Emilia Romagna GP, Provisional Grid

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
5) Lando Norris, McLaren
6) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
7) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
8) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
9) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
10) Mick Schumacher, Haas
11) George Russell, Mercedes
12) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
13) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
14) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
15) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
16) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
17) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
18) Alex Albon, Williams
19) Nicholas Latifi, Williams
20) Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo

Watch all of the action from Sunday's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix action live from 12.30pm on Sky Sports F1.

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