Emilia Romagna Grand Prix result: Verstappen dominates as F1 leader Leclerc spins into P6

Max Verstappen dominated the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to revitalise his hopes of retaining the Formula 1 drivers’ world title.

The Dutchman led Red Bull’s first one-two finish since October 2016 as he cruised to victory at Imola ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.

Charles Leclerc had been on course for 3rd, but the championship leader spun off late in proceedings as he chased Perez. The Ferrari man recovered to finish 6th but has seen his lead cut to 27 points by Verstappen.

It was a dismal day for Ferrari at the first of their two home races in 2022, with Carlos Sainz going out on the first lap after being spun around into a gravel trap by the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris was P3 as George Russell held off a late charge from the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas to finish P4 in his Mercedes.

Russell fared considerably better than his more illustrious teammate Lewis Hamilton, who had a miserable day, finishing a lap down in 13th.

Verstappen and Red Bull roar back to form at Imola

Verstappen and Red Bull had needed a response after a miserable time of it in Australia two weeks ago, and they got what they wanted at Imola with what could prove to be a pivotal race in the 2022 season.

It had been disappointing that mechanical issues meant Verstappen did not even make it to the finish line in Melbourne. But he had been well off Leclerc’s pace throughout the race and had been comprehensively trounced by the Ferrari man before he pulled off the track to stop.

The boot was well and truly on the other foot here. Verstappen never looked in any trouble at the front once he had converted his pole into the race lead at the start in damp conditions.

He had the bonus of Leclerc making a poor start from P2, in a role reversal from Saturday’s Sprint, and the Monegasque dropped to P4 behind Perez and Norris.

Verstappen quickly pulled a gap of six seconds over Perez and it never dipped below that again, with the Mexican proving the perfect wingman as he kept Leclerc behind.

Leclerc did get ahead of Perez briefly during the pit stops from intermediate to dry tyres. Perez, who had pitted first, quickly got the position back as Leclerc struggled to heat his Pirelli mediums up, and he would hold on to 2nd place for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a marked turnaround from Red Bull and highlights that the form guide in 2022 looks like it will swing from them to Ferrari depending on which track they are at.

Ferrari had the edge in Bahrain and Australia with pole and the win, while Red Bull enjoying success in Saudi Arabia and now at Imola.

Verstappen was 46 points behind coming into the race weekend but having scored a maximum 34 points thanks to the race win, fastest lap and Sprint victory, the Dutchman is now 27 off Leclerc ahead of the next round in Miami, on May 8.

Inexperience costs Leclerc podium and possibly more

It was not supposed to be this way for Leclerc. He came to Imola on the back of two wins from the opening three races and with real hopes of a first Ferrari win at the venue since 2006.

But he was unable to beat either Red Bull in the race and more critically made an error with nine laps to go that could, potentially, have big consequences in the championship fight – the first of his career. 

Leclerc was 3rd behind Verstappen and Perez. A change to soft tyres in pursuit of the extra point for fastest lap had revitalised his pace and he was pushing Perez hard.

Too hard, it turns out, as he bounced over the kerbs at the Variante Alta chicane, spinning around on Lap 54 and hitting the wall. He was fortunate to escape with just a broken front wing, but a pit stop dropped him to P9.

He recovered to P6 by the end after passing Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel and Yuki Tsunoda, but eight points was not what he would have expected from his afternoon’s work.

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As we saw in 2021 with the Verstappen vs. Hamilton title fight, a championship can be decided on very small margins and throwing away seven points could come back to hurt Leclerc if things stay as competitive as they are between Ferrari and Red Bull.

On the one hand, the desire of Leclerc in trying to get the extra three points is admirable. But would a more experienced head have balanced that against the risk of losing what was already secure, knowing there will be likely plenty of days ahead when he and Ferrari will be the ones in the ascendancy?

Leclerc will learn from this and will just have to hope the mistake does not prove too important come the final standings in Abu Dhabi in December.

Hamilton’s day of misery as Russell takes centre stage at Mercedes

It was a day best spent looking back at the good times if you were Lewis Hamilton. Luckily the seven-time world champion has had lots of those, but Imola 2022 won’t feature in his career highlights when he eventually does stop racing.

This was a race where anything that could go wrong did for the Mercedes man as he finished 13th, suffering the ignominy of being lapped more than 20 laps before the finish by Verstappen, the man he tussled so furiously with for the world championship in 2021.

He was unable, like a lot of drivers, to make up track position in the opening laps, despite his Mercedes car being visibly faster than most of the midfield.

Imola is notoriously difficult to pass on and with no DRS available until midway through the event due to the damp conditions, that meant progress was nigh-on impossible.

Hamilton was then blocked in the pitlane by the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, who was rightly penalised five seconds for an unsafe release. That was no consolation to the Brit, however, as he ended up stuck behind the Williams of Alex Albon and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.

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The winner of 103 races was an also-ran in proceedings as he remained there until the race’s end, the only consolation being 14th across the line became 13th after Ocon received his penalty.

Meanwhile, Russell had shown that while the Mercedes is not a match for Red Bull and Ferrari, it can be the best of the rest. P4 was not what he and the team would have had in mind pre-season as a good weekend, but compared to Hamilton and after a tough qualifying, it was commendable.

Russell made up five places on Lap 1, taking advantage of Sainz’s clash with Ricciardo, and that set him up for the race. Hamilton didn’t gain positions and that defined his frustrating afternoon.

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Emilia Romagna Grand Prix results

Position Driver Team Championship points
1. Max Verstappen Red Bull 26
2. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 18
3. Lando Norris McLaren 15
4. George Russell Mercedes 12
5. Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 10
6. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 8
7. Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 6
8. Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 4
9. Kevin Magnussen Haas
10. Lance Stroll Aston Martin
11. Alex Albon Williams
12. Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri
13. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
14. Esteban Ocon Alpine
15. Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo
16. Nicholas Latifi Williams
17. Mick Schumacher Haas
18. Daniel Ricciardo McLaren
DNF. Fernando Alonso Alpine
DNF. Carlos Sainz Ferrari

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix commentary and highlights

Lap 63: VERSTAPPEN WINS THE EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX!

Perfect day for the reigning world champion as he wins ahead of Perez and Norris. 

Lap 62: Leclerc gets sixth place off Tsunoda and he has got some redemption for the error that cost him a podium place.

Lap 61: Few spots of rain reported on track but doesn’t look like it will be too heavy. The main focus is now on whether Bottas can get one over on the man who took his place at Mercedes Russell as they battle for fourth.

Lap 59: Verstappen cruising to his second win of the season, 13 seconds ahead of Perez. Leclerc is right behind Vettel for seventh but he is going to lose 20 points to Verstappen in the championship standings as things stand.

Lap 57: Leclerc passes Magnussen and is now eighth. Meanwhile, Bottas is catching Russell for fifth with six laps to go.

Lap 55: Leclerc told his car appears OK and he can push. He can realistically catch Vettel and Magnussen still and that would give him seventh place, but that was a catastrophic error from the Ferrari man that has suddenly made a good weekend for Red Bull into an amazing one.

Lap 54: LECLERC SPINS!!

Disaster for Charles Leclerc he overcooks it and spins chasing Perez. He hits the wall and has to change his front wing and he is down to ninth after coming out of the pits.

Lap 53: The pit stop has revitalised Leclerc and he is right on Perez with the new soft tyres and he has DRS but doesn’t get past. But Red Bull’s first one-two since 2016 is under threat.

Lap 52: Red Bull react to the Leclerc stop and bring Perez in and he stays second. Leclerc gets Norris at the start of the lap to go back to third. Red Bull complete their cover of Ferrari’s move by bringing in Verstappen, who stays comfortably ahead. 

Lap 50: Leclerc pits for a new set of soft tyres. He drops behind Norris to fourth, but clearly this is with a mind to go for fastest lap and the extra point that comes with it.

Lap 48: We do have an overtake. Tsunoda has eighth from Magnussen’s Haas and shouts “Let’s go!” on the pit radio to celebrate the move.

15 laps to go and it is Verstappen, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, Russell, Bottas, Vettel, Tsunoda, Magnussen and Stroll.

Lap 46: Dark clouds are returning to Imola. Maybe some late rain to liven up the last few laps? Fingers crossed as it has got very processional. The only fun is if Hamilton can finally get past Gasly for 13th place. Time and again the Mercedes gets right under the wing of the AlphaTauri into Turn 1, but with Gasly getting DRS from the Williams of Albon ahead he does not have the grunt to get through.

Lap 44: We have a static race order at the front with no real battles in the top 10. As things stand Verstappen will end the weekend 34 points behind Leclerc, which given the DNFs in Bahrain and Australia would be a great result.

Lap 41: Hamilton slows and allows himself to be lapped by Verstappen. Not something he will be used to but the Briton has had another reality check in what is looking like being the most uncompetitive season of his career.

Lap 39: It will be Red Bull who take the headlines if it stays as it is with their first one-two since Malaysia 2016 but Aston Martin are having their best weekend of the year with Vettel seventh and Stroll 10th.

Lap 37: DRS is open but it is no use to Leclerc as it stands as he is two seconds behind second-placed Perez. With Verstappen 11 seconds further ahead and setting fastest lap after fastest lap this is not the day that Ferrari had in mind.

Even with DRS Hamilton cannot find a way past Gasly and he now has the prospect soon of being lapped by Verstappen too which will complete a miserable afternoon.

Lap 34: This is a day to forget for Hamilton. He is down in 14th, stuck behind the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly, and cannot make his way past through despite being visibly quicker.

That should change now though as DRS is finally enabled by the race director.

Lap 32: We are past halfway and Verstappen is 10 seconds ahead of Red Bull teammate Perez. Leclerc right behind the Mexican, with Norris fourth in his McLaren a further 14 seconds off the pace. The rest of the top 10 is Russell, Bottas, Vettel, Magnussen, Tsunoda and Stroll.

Lap 29: Leclerc has a big run at Perez into Turn 1 but backs out of it. The Ferrari man is desperate to shine at his team’s home race but is also aware that he has to think about the championship. He is losing 11 points to Verstappen, who has fastest lap too at the moment, but if he crashed out he’d lose 26. So caution is understandable.

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Lap 26: Mick Schumacher has had a spin in his Haas but recovers the car and continues though he is last of the 18 cars still going, with Alonso and Sainz the two men already out of the race.

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The damp conditions still mean no DRS, despite everyone being on slicks, and so you are seeing drivers trying to create different lines to try and get an advantage on cars ahead of them.

Lap 24: There is still no DRS and Leclerc cannot get past Perez it seems without it. He is now a second adrift of second-placed Perez. It feels like damage limitation for Leclerc and Ferrari now, with Verstappen seven seconds up the road, and trying to make sure they get second spot by the end of the afternoon.

Lap 21: Replays show Hamilton’s Mercedes also colliding with Esteban Ocon’s Alpine in the pit lane. A penalty for Ocon in the shape of a 5-second time penalty for an unsafe release is the result as Hamilton had nowhere to go as the Alpine was released right in front of him. 

Verstappen 7.5 seconds ahead at the front with Perez now holding off Leclerc. Norris is a further 10 seconds down the road with Russell, Bottas, Vettel, Magnussen, Tsunoda and Stroll completing the top10.

Hamilton is down in 14th after his pitlane issues.

Lap 19: Verstappen and Leclerc also pit from the front and come back out in first and second still, with Leclerc coming out in front of Perez, but the Red Bull man immediately gets second back with an overtake.

Lap 18: Ricciardo is the fastest man on the track and so other cars are instantly responding. Perez is first of the front runners to pit as Russell and Bottas also stop. But it is a bad stop for Bottas, who loses eight seconds.

Lap 17: Paul Di Resta on Sky Sports’ UK commentary believes it is dry enough for the DRS to be introduced. Meanwhile, Ricciardo, who was last of the 18 runners, is now on dry tyres as he takes on medium tyres. Everyone else will be watching how the McLaren does.

Lap 14: The teams still seem determined to try and keep their cars out despite the fact the track is clearly drying. Leader Verstappen, who is six seconds ahead of teammate Perez, complains of “sliding” as he controls things at the front.

Leclerc is 8.5 seconds behind Verstappen but is closing in on Perez, now just 1.2 seconds behind.

Lap 12: Russell does get past Magnussen but he cannot get it stopped in time at Turn 1 and bounces over the kerbs and the Mercedes drops back behind the Haas. But the Briton does get it done later in the lap and is up to fifth.

Russell is having a good day in the Mercedes so far, well better than his more illustrious teammate Hamilton who is 11th, and almost 10 seconds behind Russell.

Lap 10: Our top 10 is Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Norris, Magnussen, Russell, Bottas, Vettel, Tsunoda and Stroll.

The main track action is Russell’s Mercedes really pushing Magnussen’s Haas for fifth. The track is visibly drying but no one is pitting yet, other than Ricciardo, as they await further rain.

Lap 7: We have our first retirement of the afternoon as Alonso comes in and retires with side pod damage to his Alpine. At the front Verstappen is already three seconds ahead of Perez. Leclerc is up to third ahead of Norris, but is six seconds back on the leader.

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Lap 5: We are back under way. Red Bull have control of the race with Verstappen ahead of Perez. Leclerc immediately trying to pressurise Norris to get up to third and try and chase the front two. Vettel up to eighth with a fine pass on Alonso.

Lap 3: We are still behind the safety car. The order is Verstappen, Sainz, Norris, Leclerc, Magnussen, Russell, Bottas, Alonso, Vettel and Tsunoda.

Ricciardo pits but stays on intermediates. Verstappen echoes that view. “Too risky” he says when the conversation on the pit radio comes up on whether to go on slicks yet.

Lap 2: Replays of the start show that Ricciardo got out of shape out of the first turn and he gently tapped Sainz’s Ferrari and for the second successive race the Spaniard is an early casualty.

RACE START: The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has started! Dream start for Red Bull as Verstappen leads and Sergio Perez is up to second in the other Red Bull. A slow start for Charles Leclerc who is down to fourth but a disaster for the second Ferrari as Carlos Sainz is out after a collision with Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren at Turn 1. The Safety Car is out.

2 mins to lights out: We are off on the final parade lap before the 63-lap race starts. All 20 cars are away and heading around the track with everyone on intermediate tyres.

5 mins to lights out: The Italian crowd are in very good voice and are making a lot of noise. We should be in for another duel between home favourites Ferrari and Red Bull, the two class acts in the 2022 field, with the teams filling out the front four places on the grid. Not long until the race start now.

10 mins to lights out: It has dried out quite quickly, at least on the starting grid, ahead of the race start. It looks like everyone will be on the intermediate compound for the opening stint at least.

The big question is how quickly can drivers dare go to dry tyres, and how long can they be on them with the threat of more rain in the vicinity of the track. Being on the right compound for the conditions at the correct time will be critical and could well define the outcome of the afternoon’s proceedings.

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Meanwhile, Mercedes are happy that Hamilton’s reported engine issues on the installation laps will not be a factor in race conditions and the Briton can concentrate on the challenge of trying to score points from 14th on the grid.

20 mins to lights out: This is an exciting era of F1 racing with three great races to start the 2022 season. But a number of the spectators at Imola are treating the event as a chance to remember one of the sport’s greatest drivers, Ayrton Senna.

The three-time world champion was killed in a crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix held at the venue. It was one of the sport’s darkest weekends, with Roland Ratzenberger having died a day earlier after a crash in qualifying.

There is a statue to remember Senna at Imola and fans having been paying their respects to him during the weekend.

30 mins to lights out: Every race in 2022 so far has had at least one full safety car period and Imola would be unlikely to break that streak, you would have thought.

There was one in the Sprint on Saturday after Zhou Guanyu crashed after the Alfa Romeo driver made contact with Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri on the opening lap.

With wet conditions for the start this should be a lively opening few laps with contact very likely. It looks just moderately wet in some areas but on the back of the track there is still some standing water and it looks very treacherous.

Hamilton has already skated off once, with no visible damage caused, and he is now reporting his “engine is not running smoothly”.

35 mins to lights out: The cars on track doing installation laps and it looks very treacherous out there with the majority of cars on full wets, although Fernando Alonso’s Alpine is among those trying the intermediates.

45 mins to lights out: We have five minutes until the cars will come out to test the conditions, do some installation laps and head towards the grid to prepare for the race start.

On Sky Sports in the UK the 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg is hypothesising about Lewis Hamilton’s mindset. The seven-time world champion has had a miserable 2022 so far and it hasn’t got any better at Imola where he was only 14th in the Sprint on Saturday.

Rosberg, who was Hamilton’s teammate for four years at Mercedes, predicts the fact that Hamilton is starting behind his new teammate George Russell will not sit well with him.

“Lewis hates being behind his teammate, he always has and he always will,” said the German. “He will be pushing hard with the team to improve the package but he will not be happy being behind George.”

Hamilton won at Imola in 2020 at F1’s first race at the venue since 2006, but a repeat of that looks extremely unlikely today and simply being in the points would be a good result for the Briton.

60 mins to lights out: It is still raining but it is not dampening the spirits of the Ferrari fans around the circuit who are creating a party atmosphere. Charles Leclerc came to Imola having won two of the first three races of the season and the championship leader will hope he can bring further joy to his Italian employers today.

This is the first time since September 2012 that a Ferrari driver (Fernando Alonso) comes to a race on Italian soil leading the drivers’ championship.

Ferrari have not had a drivers’ champion since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 and Leclerc’s strong start has provided real hope this could be the year that finally ends their drought. 

75 mins to lights out: Just as on Friday it its wet at Imola. There has been a lot of rain around in the last hour or so and conditions are treacherous to say the least. The drivers, armed with umbrellas, have just been out on the circuit on the back of a truck to salute the thousands of spectators braving the conditions to watch on. 

This was be the first wet race of 2022 if it is still like this come lights out time and will certainly add unpredictability to proceedings.

80 mins to lights out: Max Verstappen and Red Bull have so far this weekend bounced back well from their disappointment in Australia two weeks ago. Not only did he fail to finish due to a mechanical failure, but he had been comprehensively outpaced by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari before then in Melbourne.

But on Saturday the Red Bull appeared to be able to manage its tyres better and he was able to hunt down and pass Leclerc on the penultimate lap. He will hope to have an easier time of it today and retain the lead from pole at the start, but he knows at least he is a match for his title rival at Imola.

90 mins to lights out: Welcome to The Sporting News’ live coverage of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the fourth round of the 2022 Formula 1 season. 

The start should be action-packed as the sprint race demonstrated that while it is possible to overtake, if you get caught in a queue of cars it can be tough to pass, if the majority of cars all have access to DRS at the same time.

So expect some risky moves on Lap 1 as the midfield runners try and make up ground and gain track position.

How to watch the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

  UK USA Canada Australia
Date April 24 April 23 April 23 April 23
Time 2 p.m. 9 a.m. ET 9 a.m. ET 8 p.m. AEST
TV channel Sky Sports F1 ESPN TSN FOX SPORTS

Emilia Romagna F1 Sprint results

Position Driver Team Championship points
1. Max Verstappen Red Bull 8
2. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 7
3. Sergio Perez Red Bull 6
4. Carlos Sainz Ferrari 5
5. Lando Norris McLaren 4
6. Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 3
7. Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 2
8. Kevin Magnussen Haas 1
9. Fernando Alonso Alpine
10. Mick Schumacher Haas
11. George Russell Mercedes
12. Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri
13. Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin
14. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
15. Lance Stroll Aston Martin
16. Esteban Ocon Alpine
17. Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri
18. Alexander Albon Williams
19. Nicholas Latifi Williams
20. Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo