Race Weekend Central

Max Verstappen Steals Imola Sprint from Charles Leclerc

Max Verstappen took his second Formula 1 win at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Saturday’s (April 23) sprint race, leading Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez home at the conclusion of the 21-lap event.

Polesitter Verstappen spent much of the race working to hang on to Leclerc’s gearbox, struggling to pose any threat while trapped in the Ferrari’s turbulent air, though tire wear would open a door for the Red Bull that Leclerc was not equipped to close.

“The start was very bad,” Verstappen said. “I don’t know exactly what happened or why it was so bad. Just too much wheel spin.

“I’m happy, of course, about today but I know tomorrow with other tire compounds coming into play it might be a bit different.”

Verstappen claimed the sprint pole position during Friday’s qualifying, with Leclerc lining up second in front of a lively Tifosi crowd. At lights out, Verstappen’s car failed to grab gear and Leclerc had managed to clear the Red Bull before reaching the braking zone for the Tamburello chicane.

See also
Max Verstappen Claims 1st F1 Pole of 2022 in Hectic Imola Qualifying

While Leclerc’s lead was secure and then some throughout the race, as the Ferrari began to weigh heavily on its front tires, Verstappen began to close the gap, finally coming within DRS range of Leclerc on lap 16.

The writing was on the wall for Leclerc as soon as the Red Bull’s rear wing opened, with Verstappen gaining six tenths of a second on the Ferrari on the start-finish straight alone. A few sketchy exits out of Rivazza 2 for Verstappen spared Leclerc’s lead for some time, but not indefinitely.

Verstappen held his Red Bull straight on corner exit on lap 19 and drew alongside Leclerc entering Tamburello on lap 20. By the start of the 21st and final lap, Verstappen had cleared DRS range over Leclerc and crossed the line with a near three-second advantage.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen qualified an astounding fourth place, but a questionable tire strategy left the Dane to finish in eighth, having been somewhat off pace throughout the race.

Mercedes’ woes continued as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell suffered slow starts, of which neither driver made a notable recovery. The Mercedes duo will line up in 11th and 14th positions for the Grand Prix.

Zhou Guanyu was the race’s only retirement, and China’s first F1 driver will start in 20th place for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Zhou’s race was over in less than a minute when contact with Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri sent the Shanghai native into the barrier on the exit of Piratella.

Gasly sustained minor front end damage, but was able to continue following the resulting safety car period. Gasly ended the day in 17th place.

See also
F1 Midweek: Ferrari Homecoming & Sprint Qualifying Returns

The 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will begin at 9 a.m. ET on Sunday, April 24 with television coverage provided by ESPN.

2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Sprint Race – Official Results

1. Max Verstappen
2. Charles Leclerc
3. Sergio Perez
4. Carlos Sainz
5. Lando Norris
6. Daniel Ricciardo
7. Valtteri Bottas
8. Kevin Magnussen
9. Fernando Alonso
10. Mick Schumacher
11. George Russell
12. Yuki Tsunoda
13. Sebastian Vettel
14. Lewis Hamilton
15. Lance Stroll
16. Esteban Ocon
17. Pierre Gasly
18. Alex Albon
19. Nicholas Latifi
20. Zhou Guanyu

About the author

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Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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