RACE DEBRIEF

    Imola host the first edition of F1 Sprint in 2022, with Max Verstappen fighting back from a poor start to re-pass championship leader Charles Leclerc and come out on top in a thrilling 21-lap event. We look at who gained the most positions – and therefore grid spots for the race – ahead of Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix…

    READ MORE: Verstappen snatches P1 from Leclerc in thrilling Imola Sprint

    1-ver.jpg

    Verstappen was at a loss to explain why he suffered so much wheelspin at the start, which allowed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to bolt past him into the lead of the F1 Sprint. And while he dropped back in the early phase, the reigning world champion slashed the gap as Leclerc struggled with his tyres before using DRS to blitz past the Ferrari and into the lead with two laps to go. That’s eight points in the bag and his first P1 Grand Prix start of the 2022 season.

    READ MORE: Verstappen relieved to take P1 in Sprint after 'terrible' start at Imola

    2-LEC.jpg

    The tifosi roared with excitement when Leclerc slotted into the lead heading into Turn 1 at the start. The Monegasque handled the Safety Car restart with ease before pulling away out of DRS range with a flurry of fastest laps. But that meant he lacked tyre life in the closing stages, fell into Verstappen’s clutches and dropped into second – 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 win’ – Leclerc reveals key struggle after losing Imola Sprint to Verstappen

    3-PER.jpg

    Sergio Perez was among the biggest movers on Saturday afternoon in Imola, the Mexican making up for a disappointing qualifying to gain four places and finish third in the F1 Sprint. That means he’ll start the Grand Prix third for the second successive race while also giving Red Bull the strategic advantage for Sunday should he keep Carlos Sainz at bay at the start.

    FACTS AND STATS: Ferrari grab a spot on the front row at Imola for the first time since 2006

    4-SAI.jpg

    Sainz was furious with himself on Friday evening after making a mistake in qualifying that left him a poor 10th on the grid for the Sprint. But he kept a cool head to complete an impressive damage limitation drive in the 21-lap dash, passing six cars – the most of anyone – to finish fourth and secure a second row start for Sunday.

    5-nor.jpg

    It was a case of mixed emotions from Lando Norris after he finished fifth, two places lower than he started. The Briton completed just a handful of laps in FP2 earlier in the day after encountering a brake issue, and while he had no such problems in the Sprint, he couldn’t keep Perez and Sainz behind. That said, considering McLaren’s struggles early in the year, Norris conceded that to finish best of the rest in fifth was a step forward.

    6-RIC.jpg

    Daniel Ricciardo was one of two drivers who got no running in FP2, but the team did a great job to get the Australian sorted for F1 Sprint. His getaway was strong – and he could have been fourth, but got sandwiched between Perez and Kevin Magnussen and dropped 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 upbeat about McLaren’s chances after Imola Sprint

    7-BOT.jpg

    Like Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas got no running in FP2, the Finn benched while his Alfa Romeo team swapped his chassis. But the car was brilliantly quick in the race, and after a poor start, he fought back through the field to score a couple of points and secure seventh on the grid, one place higher than he started.

    8-mag.jpg

    Kevin Magnussen was the only driver in the top 10 to start on the medium tyres, and the Dane later admitted that he was shocked to see everyone around him on the softs. Having emerged unscathed from his contact with Ricciardo on Lap 1, he fought valiantly and while the Haas driver ultimately slid down the order to ultimately lose four places – only one driver lost more – he held on to eighth, which was the last points-paying position.

    9-ALO.jpg

    The highs of qualifying felt a world away for Fernando Alonso on Saturday, the double world champion losing two places at the start. He lost another spot to drop to eighth before relinquishing the last point to Bottas with five laps to go and crossing the line ninth.

    HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the Sprint as Verstappen outduels Leclerc at Imola

    10-SCH.jpg

    Mick Schumacher was one of two drivers inside the top-12 to start on the medium tyre – his team mate Magnussen the other. The German showed strong pace to rise two places, the Haas driver coming out on top in a thrilling fight with mentor Sebastian Vettel to finish 10th – which incidentally will be a career-high start for the Grand Prix.

    11-RUS.jpg

    It was an unexciting afternoon for George Russell, who like Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton lacked the performance – particularly on the straights – to make any progress and thus ended the 21-lap event where he started.

    Tsu .jpg

    Yuki Tsunoda put a frustrating qualifying behind him with an electric start that saw him jump three places. He gained another before the event was out, moving him to the fringes of the top 10 and in shooting distance of points on Sunday at the team’s home race.

    13-VET.jpg

    Sebastian Vettel had hoped to convert his first top-10 qualifying performance of 2022 into his first points of the season in the F1 Sprint, but while the German defended strongly in the first few laps, he tumbled down the order when his countryman Schumacher got past and he ended up four places lower than he started.

    14-ham.jpg

    Lewis Hamilton cut a despondent figure after the F1 Sprint, the seven-time world champion having ended the afternoon one place lower than he started. He admitted there was simply no more he could have done, with his Mercedes team anticipating an equally difficult time in Sunday’s Grand Prix.

    READ MORE: ‘There’s nothing I can do’ – Hamilton despondent after losing position in Imola Sprint

    15-STR.jpg

    Lance Stroll did his best to put pressure on Hamilton but couldn’t find a way past the Mercedes on a largely uneventful afternoon for the Aston Martin driver.

    READ MORE: Vettel maintains team 'spirit is unbroken' despite Aston Martin's point-less start to 2022

    16-oco.jpg

    Esteban Ocon’s hard work was done on the first lap, the Frenchman gaining a position on the run to Turn 1 and then two places when Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu collided. He’ll start Sunday’s race from 16th.

    17-GAS.jpg

    A first-lap collision with Zhou ended Pierre Gasly’s hopes of a strong result. The AlphaTauri driver recovered to the pits for fresh tyres and a new nose – and while he picked off the two Williams with ease, 17th – where he started – was the best he could do.

    WATCH: Zhou crashes out at start of Sprint in Emilia Romagna

    18-alb.jpg

    Alex Albon gained a couple of places on Saturday afternoon, but Williams’ struggles on the soft compound tyres meant he didn’t have the pace to make any further progress. As he pushed harder, he hurt the tyres and it became what he described as a “vicious cycle”.

    READ MORE: Alex Albon's long road back to F1 – and why he believes Williams have what it takes to improve

    19-LAT.jpg

    Nicholas Latifi’s struggles with the new-for-2022 cars continued in the F1 Sprint, the Canadian simply lacking the pace to compete and he finished a lowly 19th, one place lower than his starting spot.

    20-ZHOU.jpg

    Zhou Guanyu had the worst afternoon of all in the F1 Sprint, the Chinese driver getting tagged by Gasly as they ran side-by-side through Turn 9 and ending up in the wall. The impact caused significant damage, which means a long night ahead for his Alfa Romeo mechanics.

    Sprint Highlights: Emilia Romagna Grand Prix