Race Weekend Central

F1 Review: Max Verstappenʻs Stellar Weekend, Unfortunate Ferrari & Surging McLaren

Starting on a wet track and finishing under rain-threatening skies, Max Verstappen took off from the pole position and managed the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy to perfection, scoring his second win of 2022 and the 22nd of his career.  Verstappen put together a stellar weekend, taking the win in the sprint race, leading every lap of the GP, scoring the fastest lap, and walking away with the win.

Verstappenʻs win brings him closer to Charles Leclerc in the points standings, 27 points behind (86–59) as the Ferrari driver failed to put together a stellar effort at Imola.  Sergio Perez followed Verstappen across the line to give Red Bull its first one-two since 2016 and pull the team within 11 points of front-running Ferrari (124–113).

See also
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Dominate Imola While Ferrari Struggles At Home

Lando Norris made McLaren look good as the Woking outfit is starting to find pace after a woeful start to the season.  His third-place finish positions the team fourth in the standings even with Daniel Ricciardoʻs poor showing.

George Russell somehow made good with an underperforming Mercedes to capture fourth while Valtteri Bottas gave Alfa Romeo something to feel good about by taking fifth.

Charles Leclerc had been cruising in third but on fresh tyres sought to grab second from Perez and wound up against a barrier with a broken wing for his efforts. The gap he had built gave him enough of a cushion to replace the wing and finish sixth.

Yuki Tsunoda did what teammate Pierre Gasly has often done, driving a steady and quiet kind of race and taking home solid points by finishing seventh.  Sebastian Vettel looked nothing like the driver that showed up in Australia and was able to earn eighth on the day.

Kevin Magnussen continued his solid form on the year by grabbing ninth for Haas as Lance Stroll earned his first points of the year by taking tenth.

The Good

  • Verstappen put together the kind of weekend expected of a champion and helped send a signal to Ferrari that Red Bull are very much in the fight and that he will be challenging Leclerc in no time at all.  What must have been demoralizing for Ferrari, seeing Verstappen clean up over the course of the weekend, must have also felt enlivening for Red Bull.  If anything, this is the type of weekend the team expects and is likely a harbinger for future outings.
  • In addition, the weekend smackdown came with little drama.  Verstappen calmly stalked Leclerc for the win in the sprint qualifying race and during the GP sped off from the pole and never had to consider Leclerc a threat.  Things went about as smoothly as they could both team and driver.

The Bad

  • Just days after signing an extension with Ferrari for the next two years, Carlos Sainz found himself stuck in the gravel with his GP ending after two-and-a-half corners.  His DNF comes after crashing out on lap two of the Australian GP, marking his results for the first four races of the season as riches or failures, going second, third, DNF, DNF.

Sainz sits fifth in the standings but 48 points behind Leclerc, making his recent efforts look disappointing in contrast.  While the washout at the Australian GP came through an error of his own doing, Sainz had nothing to do with being punted by Ricciardo into the gravel.

  • Lewis Hamilton found little way to move forward during the early period on track, sliding up the order thanks to miscues from those ahead of him and finding himself in the 10th spot by lap 15.  However, there was little belief that he was about to go on a tear and rip through the field as he has so often done before.
See also
Lewis Hamilton Shown Blue Flags in Imola, Made to Let Max Verstappen pass

Hamilton finished 13th after a day that can be described as lamentable.  That his pit crew appeared sluggish, and that he lost two places from his release and the timing, also indicates that the team was not at its best.  At best, Hamilton should have been able to manage his tenth-place position but instead fell behind and never mounted much of anything regarding a challenge to those in front of him.

The Questionable

The track conditions had become favorably dry by lap 17 when the Sky Sports commentary team began harping on the lack of DRS.

Ricciardo and Gasly started the trend of putting on dry tyres, putting mediums on to take advantage best of the conditions.  Within laps, the rest of the field followed suit but even after the whole field had changed from the wet intermediates, the officials refused to enact DRS.

Again, on lap 27, with a dry line firmly established and everyone on mediums, the commentators questioned the race directorʻs decision to withhold DRS.  The lack of DRS prevented a number of opportunities for overtaking which may have made the race more entertaining.

The question that arises is one of safety versus entertainment.  Seemingly, the race director and stewards felt that track was not ready until lap 35 yet the drivers and commentators felt that conditions had improved to let them loose, so to speak.  Yet the cars, as they are designed, are meant to utlize DRS in order to make passes.  When left to their own aerodynamic design, overtaking became a limited ideological construct, as many drivers fell into parade formation within one second of each other.  If there were one thing to examine about the GP it would be to reconsider when DRS should have been enabled and how it may have affected the race.

The Driver

Lando Norris gave McLaren something to feel good about by scoring third amid ever-improving results for 2022.  McLaren started the year looking adrift and possibly oft-put by the switch to Mercedes power units.  Norris finished 15th in the first race, followed by 7th in Saudi Arabia but has now finished fifth and third to hold sixth in the points.

Both Norris and McLaren seemed to have found some ways to improve their performance as the season has progressed and teammate Ricciardo, starting in the top ten, should have been able to bring the team points if he could have avoided contact with Sainz on the first lap.  But there is reason to keep putting everything behind Norris as his experience is beginning to congeal with his talents and bring him to the front on a regular basis.  Should McLaren find a way to eke out a little more performance or find themselves in a favorable position, they should be able to score Norris a win in the near future.

The Quotable

For Max Verstappen, the weekend was nearly perfect as he noted, saying, “It was more or less a perfect weekend, everything went well for us and we’ll of course enjoy today. I scored the maximum amount of points this weekend and we can be really proud of that as a Team, it’s a great boost. Today was all about judging the conditions, making the right calls, and staying very focused and I think we did that very well.”

Sergio Perez, enjoying back-to-back second-place finishes, said, “It was a tough race but an enjoyable one. Rule number one in these conditions is to finish. It was difficult because in these conditions it is easy to make a mistake and put a foot wrong but we managed a clean race and kept out of trouble, which was pretty important.”

Lando Norris acknowledged his fortune by recognizing, “P3, what a result! We certainly didn’t expect that coming into this weekend, so I’m happy to be leaving with a podium.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto noted the difficulties for the team in front of the home fans, saying, “we will not lose heart and we will continue to work calmly. We wanted to give the fans something to cheer about, as they packed out the grandstands and the fields with a sea of red to support us here at Imola.”

The Results: Emilia Romagna Grand Prix; Imola, Italy (Apr 24)

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing RBPT 63 1:32:07.986 26
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing RBPT 63 +16.527s 18
3 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 63 +34.834s 15
4 63 George Russell Mercedes 63 +42.506s 12
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 63 +43.181s 10
6 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 63 +56.072s 8
7 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri RBPT 63 +61.110s 6
8 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 63 +70.892s 4
9 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 63 +75.260s 2
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 62 +1 lap 1
11 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
12 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri RBPT 62 +1 lap 0
13 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 62 +1 lap 0
15 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 62 +1 lap 0
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
17 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 62 +1 lap 0
18 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
NC 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 6 DNF 0
NC 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0 DNF 0

Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Ocon received a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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