Leclerc can with Sainz in Free Practice 1 with rain in Imola

Despite the rain, there were free practices. After Formula 3 and Formula 2 were seriously conditioned during the morning by the liquid element, so much so that the intermediate category session had to be cancelled, the rains stopped a bit and the cars of the queen category were able to go out on the track for testing before this afternoon’s qualifying session. And in extreme rain conditions and after intermissions, it was the Ferraris that proved to be the benchmark, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz battling to finish in first position and being the Monegasque who has achieved it. The Red Bulls start far away, although the Mercedes are further away, with George Russell 10th and Lewis Hamilton 18th.

Ferrari and Red Bull respond in extreme rain conditions

At first, and given the poor situation of the track due to the puddles and the accumulation of water, the pilots were slow to leave. It was not until after the first four minutes that the first protagonists came out, including Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, and they ended up succeeding the entire grid before completing the first quarter of the session. They all took the line with extreme rain tiresand began to set very unrepresentative times.

What they did see were the first errors due to the difficulty of driving. For example, Leclerc was the first, suffering a spin after stepping on the bananas at the exit of the High Variation, and then Nicholas Latifi followed him, going through the dirt, and Sainz, doing the same for the grass in the second part of the circuit.

After the first third of the session, the times dropped to 1:35, with the drivers gaining confidence. In that strip, it was the Ferraris that managed the best, with Leclerc at the top of the time table with a 1:35,629a record 124 thousandths faster than that of Sainz and higher by more than half a second to Max Verstappen. Behind, and already more than a second, Gasly, Magnussen, Tsunoda and Alonso were positioned, with the rest more than 2.

After that, it was Sergio Perez who stepped forward. The Mexican pilot went down to the 1:35,476 to place first, while mistakes continued to be made: it happened again to Leclerc, with a spin in Acqua Minerale, and among others to Esteban Oconwhich went long, to the ground, ruining his progression in a weekend in which he released his engine as a precaution within Alpine.

Thus, before reaching the halfway point of training, most of the drivers returned to the pits to start preparing for the track exit. with intermediate tires, as Carlos Sainz had foreseen a few minutes before. In several boxes they saw the possibility of change, and they chose to play it. The first to do so was Vettel, who improved his record without problems, giving evidence to his teammates to follow him.

Leclerc leads with intermediates over Sainz

With the new tires, the mistakes continued. Both Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen went off the rails and ended up in the gravel for pushing too hard. The one who did not do it was Carlos Sainz, who first went down to 1: 33.716 to get first, later confirming his position with a record of 1:32,606also taking advantage of the slipstream provided by Sebastian Vettel.

However, the joy of Madrid did not last long. Right after him came Leclerc, who didn’t mind making a third top in the session, leaving Tamburello and not complete, since he was able to save it in the middle. On the lap after the incident, the World Cup leader went down to the 1:32,512with which he improved his partner by 94 thousandths.

After that, there was a moment of struggle between the Ferraris, showing that they start as favorites in wet conditions, since the rest could not get close. Leclerc failed in his two attempts to improve his lap, in the first for cutting in the last corner of Rivazza and in the second for going long in the Variante Alta. The one who did not do it was Sainz, who completed a good lap to go down to the 1:30,803.

Looking into the final minutes, the track continued to improve and, consequently, the times also dropped. Sainz tried to maintain his first position with a 1:30.279, but Leclerc later managed to square the lap with an impressive 1:29.402, being the first driver to break the 1:30 barrier. Verstappen tried to approach both Ferraris, but his RB18 did not offer him the best sensations. With a 1:30.8, could only stay one second and four tenthsin front of the two Haas, Pérez and Alonsowho after making a mistake on his first attempt with the intermediates managed to place seventh.

It was four minutes from the end when the session had to be stopped due to an incident of lando norris. The Englishman from McLaren went off and initially got stuck in the gravel, although was able to back it out thanks to the fact that the ground was wet. As a consequence, the session resumed for the last 3 minutes, where no new differences were marked.

Thus, after the first seven positions mentioned above, they closed the Top 10 Vettel, Tsunoda and Russell, with Mercedes more than 4 seconds. More than five, finished behind Bottas, who had a small accident with the checkered flag, staying about to touch the wall, Gasly, Ocon, Norris, Ricciardo, Stroll, Albon, Hamilton, Zhou and Latifi. The poor development of Mercedes in the rain and especially in the hamiltonwho with the intermediates complained for quite some time about lack of feeling with the tires.


Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix – Free Practice 1

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