Formula 1 at Imola: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes do not stop falling, while Max Verstappen set the fastest time for the sprint race

the dutch Max Verstappen (Red Bull) achieved his first pole of the year in the classification of the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this Friday and will lead the sprint race on Saturday, on the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola (Italy). The Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), leader of the World Cup, will accompany him on the front line. But nothing is decided for the start line of the GP on Sunday, which will be determined by the results of the sprint race on Saturday at 9.30 (Argentine time). The negative news was again led by Mercedes and Leweis Hamilton, who did not even reach the final stage of the classification.

The Dutch Verstappen celebrates with Red Bull, in the kingdom of FerrariGUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE – POOL

Briton Lando Norris (McLaren) and Dane Kevin Magnussen will be on the second row, with Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Australian Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) on third. The Mexican Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), the Finnish Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo), the German Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and the Spanish Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) complete the top-10.

Leclerc has a 34-point championship lead over George Russell’s Mercedes, after winning two of the three races held to date and winning the three bonus points available for the fastest laps. The three qualifying phases of the day had to be interrupted by incidents. Red flags appeared five times and the drivers ended up running on intermediate tires on the sodden track.

Charles Leclerc's Ferrari had a good ride on the team's fetish track
Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari had a good ride on the team’s fetish trackANDREJ ISAKOVIC – AFP

The last session (Q3) was marked by the absence of Mercedes, for the first time since 2012. George Russell could only set the eleventh fastest time, and his teammate Lewis Hamilton 13th in the second session (Q2), while only the top ten went on to Q3. This year, Hamilton had not even been able to get past Q1 in Saudi Arabia, in the second race of the year. The Argentine illusionist René Lavand used to entertain his audience with a phrase that became famous: “Can’t slow it down”, he said, daring people to figure out the trick. The sentence comes back as an irony now if you look at the way the Mercedes drive…

Hamilton’s statements after qualifying were in line with the critical situation that the German team is going through. “It wasn’t a great session, naturally it’s disappointing. You come here with optimism and you know that everyone is working very hard in the factory, and things just don’t work out. It’s disappointing. I think today we have performed less as a team. There are things we should have done that we haven’t.”, started the seven-time champion.

Lewis Hamilton, from Mercedes, and his exposure to the press after a black Friday
Lewis Hamilton, from Mercedes, and his exposure to the press after a black FridayLuca Bruno

Asked if the sprint meant there was still a chance to salvage something from the weekend, Hamilton replied: “We’ll keep working hard. Every weekend is a rescue.” Hamilton was seen talking to the Mercedes boss, toto wolff, after leaving in Q2, but refused to tell the content of that talk. “These are internal things, so I prefer not to share it”, she closed her presentation.

As in 2021, the premier category of motorsport applies the qualifying sprint race format on Saturday, in three Grand Prix, introducing some novelties. For example, the official pole – the one that will count for Formula 1 statistics – is attributed to the fastest driver in Friday’s qualifying and not at the end of the sprint race. Friday’s classic qualifying sets the starting positions for this sprint race, in which the first eight will add points for the World Cup (from 8 for the first to 1 for the eighth). In addition to Emilia-Romagna, this new format is also planned in Austria for the weekend of July 10 and in Brazil for the weekend of November 13.

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is ​​the first European event in the current 2022 season of the Formula 1. This Friday, the intense rains and the prevailing bad weather became the real protagonists. In this context, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, both from Ferrari, appeared at the top in the first chapter of the day, before the classification led by Verstappen.

The first to go was Valtteri Bottas and he did it with wet tires. He set 1m43.277s at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo, while Charles Leclerc with his Ferrari spun as a consequence of the permanent difficulties that all the drivers had.

Carlos Sainz wants to recover from his abandonment in Melbourne
Carlos Sainz wants to recover from his abandonment in MelbourneMIGUEL MEDINA – AFP

For his part, Max Verstappen, made a time of 1m39s595, a mark that would soon be improved by 0s360 by Leclerc when they were 13 minutes into training. The last world champion responded quickly with a lap of 1m37.247s to return to first place, while Sergio Pérez got into second place by lapping in 1m37.678s for a momentary 1-2 for Red Bull.

When they were 20 minutes into practice, Leclerc reached the top with a time of 1m35s629 and Sainz followed closely behind, 8 tenths away. Verstappen was in third place and Magnussen in fourth position. In the stands, the tifosi did not cease to be excited about the pace of the Ferrari, which made it 1-2 and hope to continue on that winning path.

Several cars ended up skidding off the track.. Even Leclerc was spinning twice. The session was also red-flagged when Lando Norris was also thrown off the track and caused concern. It was understandable that in such a scenario, the teams opted to preserve the cars for qualifying in the afternoon.

It was the first time most of the drivers had tested their cars in the rain. The Emilia-Romagna GP represents the return of the sprint. Instead of the usual three practices to get acquainted with the car’s performance on the circuit, there was just one practice, followed by qualifying on Friday for Saturday’s sprint.

Imola returned to the Formula 1 calendar in 2020 after a 14-year absence, but this is the first time in three editions that fans have been allowed in due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 120,000 tickets have been sold for the weekend.