RACE DEBRIEF

    The first F1 Sprint weekend of 2022 is just around the corner as the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix returns on April 22-24 – so here's a look back at five incredible moments from the new format when it debuted in 2021…

    READ MORE: How does the F1 Sprint work? The format explained ahead of Imola

    1. Russell captures hearts at Silverstone

    Silverstone welcomed fans for the first time after the global pandemic, and 140,000 spectators descended on the historic circuit for the 2021 British Grand Prix – which also heralded the debut of the F1 Sprint format.

    And local hero George Russell only fuelled the festival atmosphere with a stunning qualifying lap, his second Q3 appearance in a row for a Williams squad who had endured a rough few years.

    The crowd were in raptures when he made it through Q2 in P7 – and they were treated to something of a victory lap when the Williams driver emerged for the top 10 shootout, ending up eighth on the grid for the Sprint. Just listen to the reception…

    2021 British GP Qualifying: Silverstone crowd cheer Russell’s Q3 'lap of honour’

    2. Alonso scythes through the field

    Fernando Alonso put on a legendary show at the start of the 2021 British Grand Prix Sprint, and while he may have been a bit downtrodden not to make it out of Q2 – missing out by just 0.025s on Friday evening – he was firing on all cylinders for Saturday’s event.

    The two-time champion started 11th and, by the first lap, he was a brilliant fifth with a masterclass on his starting soft compounds.

    It was a high-risk, high-reward strategy – perfect for a no-holds-barred, 100km dash to the line.

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    F1 Sprint Moment: Alonso charges to P5 from P11 at start

    3. Hamilton’s sensational Sao Paulo comeback

    Lewis Hamilton only had 24 laps to make it from last on the grid to, well, as high as he could in the Sao Paulo Sprint, and rescue a title fight that seemed to have slipped away after he was disqualified from Friday’s qualifying session.

    Cue a performance that only someone of the seven-time champion’s calibre could pull off. Starting last, Hamilton shot off the line on his medium tyres and picked each passing place to perfection. By the start of Lap 2 he was 14th, and then there was a brief lull: the calm before the storm.

    Midway through the Sprint, Hamilton’s tyres were in the window and he was in the zone, up into the top 10. And by Lap 24 he’d sealed fifth, asserting: “It’s not over yet.”

    It wasn’t over. Hamilton started 10th on Sunday, a new Mercedes engine giving him a five-place grid penalty. What followed was an electric display, the champion picking off cars left and right only to find Max Verstappen the most stubborn of obstacles. The Dutchman stuck his elbows right out at Turn 4, as the pair took to the run-off, but the Briton kept his cool and hit back for the unlikeliest of victories.

    READ MORE: Hamilton takes victory in Brazil after stunning drive from P10 and pass on Verstappen

    2021 São Paulo GP F1 Sprint: Hamilton blasts through the field in Brazil

    4. Bottas shows his mettle at Monza

    Valtteri Bottas was in a peculiar spot by the time the 2021 Italian Grand Prix and Sprint rolled around, having announced that he was to leave Mercedes for Alfa Romeo at the end of the season.

    The fight was still there from the Finn, however, and he aced qualifying – a tenth ahead of team mate Hamilton – to ensure P1 for the start of the Sprint. Pierre Gasly’s Turn 2 clash brought out a Safety Car but the Mercedes driver batted Verstappen away and nailed the restart.

    Then came a flurry of masterful laps, Bottas ironically showing Mercedes exactly why they courted him in the first place. Unfortunately, with Mercedes changing his power unit overnight, Bottas was set to start Sunday’s Grand Prix from last despite his P1 finish in the Sprint.

    2021 Italian GP F1 Sprint: Valtteri Bottas wins the F1 Sprint at Monza

    5. Ricciardo’s Sprint success paves the way for Monza victory

    Bottas may have taken the spoils in the Monza Sprint – but Daniel Ricciardo played it beautifully for McLaren too, sowing the seeds of what would ultimately prove a thrilling Italian Grand Prix victory.

    Strong pace from the Australian meant he finished the Sprint P3 – which became a front-row start for Ricciardo alongside Verstappen for Sunday’s Grand Prix once Bottas had taken his engine penalty.

    READ MORE: Watch Hamilton and Verstappen's Monza crash in 360 degrees

    With Verstappen on pole for the race, Ricciardo inched into the lead ahead of the Dutchman into the opening chicane and thundered away at the front.

    Ricciardo’s cause then got an extra boost following Verstappen and Hamilton’s controversial coming together, with the Australian eventually joined at the front of the field by his McLaren team mate Lando Norris, putting the team on course for what was set to be a miraculous one-two! And they delivered, Ricciardo coming home ahead of Norris for a maiden victory with McLaren.

    2021 Italian Grand Prix: Wild celebrations for McLaren team after stunning 1-2 finish at Monza

    The Sprint is back this weekend, Imola hosting the first event of the season during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on April 22-24. Make sure you don't miss it by visiting our RACE HUB, which has all the start times and broadcast information.

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