Race: Max Verstappen wins at Imola, Charles Leclerc in the barrier

Such was Max Verstappen’s pace that he didn’t need Sergio Perez as a rear-gunner at the Emilia Romagna GP but it helped as Red Bull secured their first 1-2 of the season.

Leading from lights to flag, Verstappen not only showed pace in the drying conditions but also had a bulletproof RB18 as he raced his way to his second win of this season.

Perez was second ahead of Lando Norris, the McLaren driver elevated onto the podium after Charles Leclerc pushed too hard on his new soft tyres and hit the wall at the chicane.

He recovered to finish P6 with his lead in the championship slashed to 27 points with Verstappen up to second.

Max Verstappen WINS the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix! 🏆#ImolaGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/3lZEBTDcZ9

— Formula 1 (@F1) April 24, 2022

Intermediates were the tyre of choice at the start of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the wet track promising early action. While Max Verstappen stormed off the line, no sign of his sprint race issues, Sergio Perez was up to second ahead of Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc fell to fourth.

Ferrari’s troubles were compounded when Daniel Ricciardo tagged Carlos Sainz and put the Spaniard out of the grand prix. “He hit me” was Sainz’s assessment. Ricciardo dropped to the back of the field. George Russell was the big winner on the opening lap, up from 11th to sixth, Mick Schumacher the big loser, down from 10th to 17th.

The racing resumed on lap 5 with the Red Bulls pulling away from Norris who had the bouncing Leclerc all over his rear wing with Kevin Magnussen running P5 ahead of Russell, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel who took P8 off Fernando Alonso at the restart. The Spaniard continued to fall down the order with a close up of his Alpine showing a chunk missing out of the right sidepod, Alonso retiring at the end of lap 6.

Two laps later a mad cheer was all the indication anyone needed that Leclerc was on the move, the championship leader taking third off Norris into the first part of the chicane. He was, however, six seconds down on race leader Verstappen.

Russell was another driver on the move, although it took him a few laps, the Mercedes driver passing Magnussen for fifth at the Variante Alta with Bottas following him through a lap later. Hamilton wasn’t having as much luck as his team-mate, the seven-time World Champion struggling to find a way past the Aston Martin of Stroll.

LAP 12/63

Magnussen and Russell have been fighting hard

The Briton eventually wins the battle moving up to P5 #ImolaGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/h2fipPE1r1

— Formula 1 (@F1) April 24, 2022

Ricciardo was the first to pit for slicks, stopping on lap 16, and by lap 20 all 18 runners had stopped for medium Pirellis with Verstappen leading Perez and Leclerc. There was drama in the pits as Bottas had an eight-second stop for a slow front right, and Hamilton and Ocon made contact down the pit lane with the Alpine released into the Mercedes’ path, Ocon coming out ahead but with a five-second penalty.

Midway through the grand prix it had become a procession as the Race Director was not able find the ‘enable DRS’ button with Verstappen 10 seconds up the road from Perez and Leclerc while Norris, Russell, Bottas and Vettel all ran lonely races ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, Magnussen and Lance Stroll.

Lap 34, DRS enabled! But by then only Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton were running within a second of each other. Although even then such are Mercedes problems that DRS could not help Hamilton improve on his P14.

Fun has been enabled by the FIA.#ImolaGP #F1

— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) April 24, 2022

Leclerc pitted on lap 50 for fresh soft tyres to try for the fastest lap point, with Red Bull then pitting Perez and Verstappen as well for good measure. They came out P1 to P3 again, the Dutchman still comfortably ahead but Leclerc having closed the gap on Perez through his one-lap undercut.

Chasing the Red Bull, Leclerc put it into the barrier at the Variante Alta, the driver back into the pits for a new front wing. He rejoined the race in ninth place but reported that his car “doesn’t feel great”, Ferrari telling him that the data says everything is fine. He soon overtook Magnussen and then Vettel.

LAP 54/53

Leclerc has gone into the barriers at the chicane!

He's got going again, returns to the pits and then out again on track but down in P9 #ImolaGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/242hWCCR8h

— Formula 1 (@F1) April 24, 2022

Verstappen romped to an easy and unchallenged win ahead of Perez for his second P1 of the season and Red Bull’s first 1-2, taking the chequered flag 16 seconds ahead of his team-mate, while Norris recorded his and McLaren’s first podium with his P3.

Russell held off a charging Bottas to finish fourth with Leclerc recovering to sixth place after passing Tsunoda on the final lap. Vettel, Magnussen and Stroll completed the points with Hamilton down in P14.

 

Result

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 16.527s
3 Lando Norris McLaren 34.834s
4 George Russell Mercedes 42.506s
5 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 43.181s
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 56.072s
7 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 61.110s
8 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 70.710s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas 75.026s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1 LAP
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1 LAP
12 Alex Albon Williams 1 LAP
13 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1 LAP
14 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1 LAP
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 1 LAP
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1 LAP
17 Mick Schumacher Haas 1 LAP
18 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1 LAP

Did not finish

Fernando Alonso Alpine bodywork damage
Carlos Sainz Ferrari crash

 

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