F1 – Imola GP – Sprint race

Ciao, MiniFans! We’re back in Imola and, after two years’ worth of missing the fans, tifosi are back in the circuit to cheer on the championship leaders. The first of the three sprint races of the season is here, and yesterday’s afternoon qualifying gave us the starting grid for today, as well as the poleman.

Friday saw the rain on the circuit becoming a bit problematic for some drivers, like Sainz, who will have to start from tenth after crashing, but a boost for others, such as Magnussen, Alonso and the two McLarens. Twenty-one laps will determine the grid for tomorrow’s race, as well as give away a handful of points to those finishing in the top 8.

Leclerc managed to get the jump on Verstappen at the start, while his teammate Sainz started to climb back up the timing tower, but a very early safety car stopped everyone in their tracks. An incident between Gasly and Zhou prompted this first halt of the race, but it wasn’t investigated and, a few laps later, the race was resumed.

The Leclerc and Verstappen rivalry has seen its fare share of green flags after safety car periods, but with new rules put in place to avoid them becoming dangerous, as they have sometimes been in the past, the restart was very clean and allowed Leclerc to start trying to get away. Meanwhile, eyes were on the battle of the Spaniards at the back as Sainz needed a few tries to pass Alonso.

Meanwhile, Magnussen, who had started on mediums, unlike most of the grid who had fitted softs, was holding onto his fourth place, which he lost once DRS was enabled and Pérez became a rocket on the straight. On the other hand, his teammate was just shy of tenth place, fighting managing to keep Russell behind him while trying to pass Vettel.

Once the race was mostly settled, eyes were trained on those who were still out of position and putting all their efforts into climbing back into position, such as Sainz, whom the tifosi were cheering on in the stands. The Spaniard was on a quest to pass his old teammate at McLaren, Norris, who was settled in fourth.

With five laps to go, Leclerc’s advantage seemed as if it was quickly disappearing, as Verstappen managed to close the gap down to the DRS zone, soon getting valuable information over radio. Graining on Leclerc’s front right tyre seemed to be the reason why he had lost some of his speed and the Red Bull was glued to the Ferrari’s rear diffuser.

While Leclerc was fighting for his life and eventually got overtaken, Sainz had passed Norris on his first try, without a single problem. Verstappen got away just enough to ensure no DRS from Leclerc just in case, as Sainz cemented a fourth place that probably tastes like heaven after Friday’s problems.

The changes made to the sprint weekends aren’t that noticeable, but it gave the fans one of the things they asked for: The poleman being crowned in a real qualifying session. More points also seem to be a fair addition, probably to prompt more drivers to put up a fight. The biggest change from yesterday’s order is Sainz  getting back to the front, in a fourth place that will allow him to fight for the podium alongside his teammate at Ferrari and the Red Bulls, but it allowed us to get a small taste of what’s to some on Sunday.

MiniDrivers – F1 Sprint
2022 Emilia Romagna GP