Nick van der Meulen, recounts the most recent Formula One Grand Prix in his report F1 Review: Emilia-Romagna.
The Gran Premio Del Made in Italy E Dell’Emilia-Romagna (a mouthful – gone are the days of just referring to it as the San Marino Grand Prix) took place at the Autodromo Dino e Enzo Ferrari, also known to fans as Imola. The circuit hosted its first championship F1 Grand Prix in 1980 as the Italian Grand Prix. A non-championship F1 event was run in 1979, replacing Monza for the only time in the Italian Grand Prix’s existence.
After 1980, it was run as the San Marino Grand Prix and has been witness to much triumph, drama and tragedy. It is the venue of Gilles Villeneuve’s final Grand Prix before his tragic death at Zolder in 1982. It was at Imola where fans witnessed the darkest weekend in F1 history when, in 1994, Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives in consecutive days due to violent accidents at Tamburello and Villeneuve corners.
As a result, the circuit has lost a lot of its character when chicanes were installed at Tamburello (where Nelson Piquet hit the barrier at high speed in 1987, Gerhard Berger had his fiery accident in 1989 and Senna lost his life in 1994) and Villeneuve (where Gilles had a huge accident in 1980 and Ratzenberger had his fatal accident), making it difficult to overtake. The activation of DRS zones in this area made it a little easier for racers, but it was still difficult to overtake in 2022.
First sprint of 2022
The Sprint Race concept has been reintroduced for the 2022 season, with three such races on the calendar. To make the concept more attractive to fans and the paddock, points will be paid for the first eight finishers, eight for the winner down to one point for eighth place. The first race held for the 2022 season was at Imola.
Overtaking opportunities were slim on race day, although Russell’s pass on Magnussen after Aqua Minerale was the move of the day. Bottas’s move on the Dane a lap later under braking into Rivazza was also excellent to watch.
Red Bull Racing emphatically announced its return to dominance, stamping its authority over proceedings, both in wet and dry conditions. World title holder Max Verstappen took advantage of archrival Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari tyre woes late in the Sprint Race to take victory in the dry, with teammate Sergio Perez taking the final step on the podium.
Both Red Bull racers blasted to the front of the feature race on Sunday in sodden conditions and waltzed to the team’s first 1-2 finish of the 2022 season. It is clear that the team worked hard between races to dominate proceedings at the home race of their archrivals and are well pleased with their results.
Ferrari will spend time post-race ruing lost opportunities, following a disastrous series of events over the race weekend which has scythed their lead in both world championships. Charles Leclerc did well to lead the majority of the Sprint Race, before being passed by Verstappen for victory on the penultimate lap. Carlos Sainz recovered well from tenth on the grid to finish a fine fourth. It all went awry for the feature race, however, with both drivers were slow off the line at the start.
Leclerc dropped to fourth position, while Sainz was unlucky to tangle with Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren at the exit of Tamburello chicane and getting stuck in the gravel, ending the Spaniard’s race. His Monegasque teammate spent much of the race running in third place behind the two Red Bulls, before launching over the kerbs and spinning off on lap 50. He immediately pitted for tyres and a nosecone, dropping him to ninth place, before he recovered to finish sixth.
Charles Leclerc: I struggled on the soft tyres but when I saw an opportunity to overtake Perez for second, I went for it, pushing a bit too much, when I should have stayed put to secure those points. We will analyse all the data and come back stronger.
McLaren-Mercedes had, arguably, their best weekend this season with both drivers performing strongly in the Sprint Race: Lando Norris and Ricciardo finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Norris took advantage of the Ferraris’ misfortune and finished a fine third on Sunday, while Ricciardo struggled to finish last on track, the damage following his clash with Sainz on the opening lap having been significant.
Red and White Ferraris
Both Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas-Ferrari) had strong showings on race weekend. The Finn claimed seventh position in the Sprint Race and directly behind George Russell (Mercedes) in the feature race to claim a fine fifth place. The Dane claimed the final point on offer in the Sprint Race after qualifying a brilliant fourth, while taking home a further two points on Sunday for ninth place. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) finished a strong seventh in the feature race, while the Aston Martin team celebrates its first points of the season with Sebastian Vettel claiming points for eighth and Lance Stroll tenth place, respectively.
Bad to worse
Mercedes continued their woeful 2022 season at Imola. Both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton failed to get beyond Q2 in qualifying and could not score points in the feature race. Russell’s flying start in the feature race ensured that he could finish a fine fourth, while Hamilton could not pass Gasly’s Alpha Tauri and Albon’s Williams-Mercedes in front of him.
Despite the poor weekend by Leclerc’s standards, he still leads the championship standings, 27 points clear of Verstappen. The Dutchman is five points clear of teammate Perez, while Russell has dropped to fourth place in the standings, a further five points behind Perez.
Still in front
Ferrari still leads the constructors’ championship – for now. Their lead has been slashed to a mere 11 points over Red Bull, with Mercedes still holding on to third place, 36 points behind Red Bull. McLaren looks comfortable in fourth place in the standings, 21 points clear of Alfa Romeo, although 31 points behind Mercedes…
The F1 circus packs up to travel to Miami, United States, for the next round of F1 world championship from 6 to 8 May. It is a street circuit, which will run on the F1 calendar for the first time. There was resistance from some of the local residents recently, where they lobbied for its cancellation due to the expected noise, but this was rejected by the courts and the race will go ahead.