Formula 1

Verstappen snatches P1 from Leclerc in thrilling Imola Sprint

Max Verstappen won the first Sprint of 2022 having passed Charles Leclerc with two laps remaining, to ensure a first-place start for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Friday’s wet qualifying session set the grid for this Sprint, Verstappen having taken pole position over Leclerc with Lando Norris leading Kevin Magnussen off the second row. An overhauled format now sees points awarded to the top eight rather than the top three – even more incentive to give it all on Saturday afternoon, under clouds spitting with rain…

It was Leclerc, to a rapturous reception from the tifosi, who took the lead off Verstappen as the lights went out – only for the Safety Car to interrupt proceedings as Zhou Guanyu (DNF) and Pierre Gasly (P19) made contact through Turn 9 on Lap 1. Green-flag racing would resume on Lap 5, Leclerc leading Verstappen then Norris at the time.

The championship leader skated away, Verstappen in tow. The Dutchman loomed in Leclerc’s mirrors throughout and was in DRS range with a handful of laps remaining, stalking the Ferrari and making his move for the lead with two laps left – sliding by into Tamburello.

Completing the top three was Verstappen’s Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez, who made up three places within the first 10 laps and pried P3 off Norris on Lap 11 with DRS.


Sprint results

1  Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 30:39.567 8
2  Charles LECLERC Ferrari +2.975s 7
3  Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +4.721s 6
4  Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +17.578s 5
5  Lando NORRIS McLaren +24.561s 4

Norris dropped to P5 for McLaren, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz up six places having crashed out of Q2, which caused him to start 10th on Saturday. Sainz claimed P4 off the McLaren with just two laps remaining.

That left Daniel Ricciardo sixth, where he started, ahead of a fast-moving Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, who took P7 off medium-tyred Haas driver Kevin Magnussen late in the Sprint.

Magnussen held on for the final point, finishing ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in P9 – who started fifth but couldn’t contend with his rivals’ pace on the softs – and the other Haas of Mick Schumacher, who took P10 on mediums.

George Russell recovered back to 11th having lost places at the start, finishing ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel – who gradually fell out of the top 10 and into 13th by the flag.

Lewis Hamilton started 13th and finished 14th in another tough showing for the Silver Arrows.

Lance Stroll rounded out the top 15 for Aston Martin, having started P15 for the Sprint.

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