Imola is hosting the first edition of the F1 Sprint in 2022, where Max Verstappen is fighting back from a bad start to pass championship leader Charles Leclerc again and get to the top in an exciting event of 21 laps. We look at who got the most places – and thus route places for the race – ahead of Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix …
READ MORE: Verstappen snatches P1 from Leclerc in exciting Imola Sprint
Verstappen was in doubt as to why he suffered so much wheel spin in the start, allowing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to frolic past him in the lead of the F1 Sprint. And as he fell back into the early stages, the reigning world champion narrowed the gap as Leclerc struggled with his tires before using the DRS to flash past the Ferrari and into the lead with two laps left. That’s eight points in the bag and his first P1 Grand Prix start in the 2022 season.
READ MORE: Verstappen relieved to take P1 in Sprint after ‘terrible’ start on Imola
That fans roared with excitement as Leclerc took the lead on his way into turn 1 at the start. The Monegasques managed the Safety Car restart with ease before pulling out of the DRS range with a shower of fastest laps. But that meant he lacked tire life in the final stages, fell into Verstappen’s clutches and fell into second place – where he started. He still increased his championship lead to 40 points heading into Sunday.
READ MORE: ‘If we can fix it, we can fight for the victory’ – Leclerc reveals key match after losing Imola Sprint to Verstappen
Sergio Perez was among the biggest moves on Saturday afternoon in Imola, where the Mexican offset a disappointing qualification to win four places and finish in third place in the F1 Sprint. That means he starts the Grand Prix in third place for the second race in a row, while giving Red Bull the strategic advantage for Sunday if he were to keep Carlos Sainz in check at the start.
FACTS AND STATISTICS: Ferrari wins first place in Imola for the first time since 2006
Sainz was furious at himself Friday night after making a mistake in qualifying that left him a poor 10th place online for the Sprint. But he kept a cool head to complete an impressive injury-limiting run in the 21-lap line, passing six cars – most of any – to finish in fourth place and secure a second-row start to Sunday.
It was a case of mixed feelings from Lando Norris after finishing in fifth place, two places lower than he started. The Briton only completed a handful of laps in FP2 earlier in the day after encountering a braking problem, and although he did not have such problems in the sprint, he could not keep Perez and Sainz behind. That said, given McLaren’s fight early in the year, Norris admitted that finishing best of the rest in fifth place was a step forward.
Daniel Ricciardo was one of two drivers who did not get anything to drive in FP2, but the team did a fantastic job of getting the Australian sorted for the F1 Sprint. His escape was strong – and he could have been number four, but was squeezed between Perez and Kevin Magnussen and fell back. He lost places to Perez and Sainz, but ended up ahead of Alonso and Magnussen to end up where he started.
READ MORE: ‘We will be a faster car tomorrow’ – Ricciardo optimistic about McLaren’s chances after Imola Sprint
Like Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas did not drive in FP2, the Finn sat on the bench while his Alfa Romeo team swapped his chassis. But the car was brilliantly fast in the race, and after a bad start, he fought his way back through the field to score a few points and secure a seventh place on the net, a place higher than he started.
Kevin Magnussen was the only driver in the top 10 to start on the medium-sized tires, and the Dane later admitted that he was shocked to see everyone around him on the soft tires. After coming out unscathed from his contact with Ricciardo in the first lap, he fought bravely, and while the Haas driver eventually slipped down the order to eventually lose four places – only one driver lost more – he held on to it eighth, which was the last point-paying position.
The highlights of the qualifiers felt a world away for Fernando Alonso on Saturday, with the double world champion losing two places at the start. He lost another spot to drop to eighth before delivering the final point to Bottas with five laps left and crossing the line as ninth.
HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the sprint as Verstappen surpasses Leclerc at Imola
Mick Schumacher was one of two drivers in the top-12 who started on the medium-sized tire – his teammate Magnussen the other. The German showed strong pace to rise two places, and the Haas rider came out on top in an exciting battle with mentor Sebastian Vettel to finish in 10th place – which, incidentally, will be a career-high start for the Grand Prix.
It was an unexciting afternoon for George Russell, who like Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton lacked performance – especially on equal footing – to make progress and thus ended the 21-round event where he started.
Yuki Tsunoda put a frustrating qualifier behind him with an electric start that made him jump three places. He scored another before the event was out, moving him to the edge of the top 10 and within shooting distance of points Sunday at the team’s home run.
Sebastian Vettel had hoped to convert his first top-10 qualifying performance in 2022 to the first point of the season in the F1 Sprint, but while the German defended strongly in the first few laps, he toppled down the order when his compatriot Schumacher came by. and he finished four places lower than he started.
Lewis Hamilton cut a depressed figure after the F1 Sprint, where the seven-time world champion finished the afternoon one place lower than he started. He admitted there was simply nothing more he could have done and his Mercedes team foresaw an equally difficult time in Sunday’s Grand Prix.
READ MORE: ‘There is nothing I can do’ – Hamilton despairs after losing position in Imola Sprint
Lance Stroll did his best to put pressure on Hamilton, but could not find a way past the Mercedes on a largely uneventful afternoon for the Aston Martin driver.
READ MORE: Vettel maintains the team’s spirit is unbroken ‘despite Aston Martin’s pointless start to 2022
Esteban Ocon’s hard work was done on the first lap, the Frenchman achieved a position on the run for the 1st turn and then two places when Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu collided. He starts Sunday’s race from the 16th.
A collision initially with Zhou ended Pierre Gasly’s hopes for a strong result. The AlphaTauri driver got back to the pits after fresh tires and a new nose – and while he easily picked up the two Williams, the 17th – where he started – was the best he could do.
SE: Zhou crashes at the start of the Sprint in Emilia Romagna
Alex Albon won a few places on Saturday afternoon, but Williams’ battles on the soft decks meant he did not have the pace to make further progress. When he pressed harder, he hurt the tires, and that became what he described as a “vicious circle.”
READ MORE: Alex Albon’s long road back to F1 – and why he believes Williams has what it takes to improve
Nicholas Latifi’s battles with the new 2022 cars continued in the F1 sprint, the Canadian simply lacked the pace to compete, and he ended up in a low 19th place, one place lower than his starting place.
Zhou Guanyu had the worst afternoon of all in the F1 Sprint, the Chinese driver was tagged by Gasly as they ran side by side through turn 9 and ended up in the wall. The collision caused significant damage, meaning a long night ahead for his Alfa Romeo mechanics.
Sprint highlights: Emilia Romagna Grand Prix