Verstappen takes pole position at Imola

Max Verstappen will start the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix sprint event on pole position after a heavy interrupted qualifying session at Imola.

The Red Bull driver persevered through five red flags to triumph over Charles Leclerc in changeable qualifying conditions.

Stop-start rain and cool tyre temperatures led to a crash-strewn session that was finally abandoned with 40 seconds remaining on the clock after Lando Norris hit the wall in Q3.

That prevented a final one-lap shootout for pole on the grid for the Saturday sprint contest, which left Verstappen atop the times ahead of Leclerc, Norris and Kevin Magnussen.

On his second and crucial lap on intermediate tyres in Q3, despite a yellow flag for a stricken Valtteri Bottas, the Red Bull driver posted a one minute, 27.999 seconds to move ahead of Leclerc.

The defending champion was quick to confirm he had lifted off and his lap time remained on the board despite the yellow, which soon developed into a red.

That move to back off proved critical when the session resumed only for Norris to crash in what had looked to be a three-minute final run to decide top spot.

Before anyone had set a time in Q3, had brought out a brief red flag after a wet-dry track caught the Haas driver out in the more treacherous second half of the lap.

He lost the rear of the car at the second entry of Acque Minerali and spun across the gravel but kept the rears spinning to eventually rejoin, but not before the session was halted.

Alonso was ready at the end of the pitlane when Q3 resumed after a five-minute delay, the Alpine driver then fighting the car and slithering off the road at Acque Minerali.

Perez and Verstappen aborted the second apex at Tamburello, the Red Bull duo both locking the front-left to run over the gravel as Leclerc set the initial pace with his one minute, 28.788 seconds effort.

Verstappen soon crossed over the timing line just 0.02 seconds adrift as he comfortably kept Norris at bay before running for another one minute, 27.999 seconds flying lap that stormed to provisional pole.

The Red Bull driver was quick to confirm over team radio that he had still backed off considerably and changed down a gear to account for a yellow flag in the final sector.

That caution then morphed into another red flag in response to Valtteri Bottas parking up in his Alfa Romeo C42 on the downhill approach to Rivazza with a technical issue.

When the track reopened a quarter of an hour later for a final three-minute dash, the remaining eight drivers queued in the pitlane ahead of a one-lap shootout for pole.

But neither Verstappen nor Leclerc looked like improving when Norris binned his McLaren also at Acque Minerali, which settled the starting order and allowed Verstappen to land the first pole of his title defence as only one Ferrari driver was there to challenge him.

Fresh from signing a contract extension at Ferrari and in front of the team’s home crowd, Carlos Sainz put his F1-75 into the wall on the exit of the penultimate Rivazza corner in Q2.

With the threat of rain returning, the first timed lap was predicted to be critical. Sainz flashed over the timing line in one minute, 18.990 seconds and he had moved top ahead of Lando Norris.

Verstappen immediately improved and brought that benchmark time down to a one minute, 18.793 seconds to take first position as Sainz was told over team radio to push for a second flying effort.

But as he turned in to the second apex of the Rivazza left, the right-rear wheel appeared to run over the painted track border, and he span across the gravel and into the outside wall.

The front-left assembly bore the brunt, and the red flag was thrown before rain duly arrived.

After a nine-minute delay to retrieve the damaged Ferrari, conditions had deteriorated sufficiently to ensure no drivers rushed to return to the circuit with 11 minutes to run.

With the risk too great to attempt a lap on slicks, both Mercedes drivers were eliminated. George Russell, whose car had broken a floor stay in FP1 due to the extreme nature of the porpoising, missed the cut off on his only flying lap by almost six tenths to land only P11.

He beat the Haas of Mick Schumacher while Lewis Hamilton failed to make Q3 for the second time in three races – Russell having struggled to generate tyre temperature all day.

In P14, Zhou Guanyu was another casualty of the declining conditions despite the Alfa Romeo driver having ended up fourth come the chequered flag of Q1 behind Sainz.

Lance Stroll rounded out the 15 drivers and had vacated the car with three minutes to run, although teammate Vettel emerged from the pits a few second later along with Bottas, Alonso, Leclerc and Perez for Q3 sighters on intermediate tyres. None improved their time.

In the first part of qualifying, a downpour that persisted overnight on Thursday had all but stopped, with the support series creating a dry line to allow most drivers to begin on softs.

Alexander Albon caused a red flag only six minutes into Q1 as the Williams FW44 endured its latest brake failure, like that which hit Nicholas Latifi in Bahrain testing.

In the cool, damp conditions at Imola, Albon complained of losing his brake pedal altogether as he was captured crawling around with flames shooting out of the right-rear brake duct.

This was swiftly followed by a small explosion inside the assembly – likely to be the brake disc failing as it subsequently tore chunks out of the suspension to drop debris on track.

Albon had yet to set a time as Q1 was halted, while Lance Stroll led on a one minute, 23.419 seconds to find 1.1 seconds over fellow soft-tyre runner Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen on intermediates.

The 18-minute Q1 run was also a struggle on the other side of the Williams garage as Nicholas Latifi suffered a spin while accelerating on the exit of the Villeneuve chicane.

He locked the fronts to slow the car before he ran over the sodden grass, but as Latifi tried to return to the circuit, he lost the car again and spun to bring out temporary yellow flags.

Latifi eventually recovered to prevent a second stoppage, as Hamilton ran 1.6 seconds adrift of the pace to just scrape into Q2 by only 0.004 seconds while as per FP1, he struggled to heat the tyres.

That left Yuki Tsunoda to be the first driver to miss out on progressing into the second part of qualifying. Although, he did still find 0.25 seconds over AlphaTauri stablemate Pierre Gasly.

Latifi ran to P18 fastest, while Esteban Ocon was hobbled for a significant portion by a gearshift issue to ensure his Alpine remained in the garage to only beat Albon for P19.

Qualifying positions for the sprint:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:27.999
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.778
3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.131
4 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:29.164
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:29.202
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:29.742
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:29.808
8 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:30.439
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:31.062
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari No time
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:20.757
12 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:20.916
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:21.138
14 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:21.434
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:28.119
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:20.474
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:20.732
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:21.971
19 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:22.338
20 Alex Albon Williams No time

3 thoughts to “Verstappen takes pole position at Imola”

  1. Qualifying review as reported by

    Max Verstappen took pole position for Red Bull in a nailbiting qualifying session ahead of the inaugural F1 Sprint of 2022 at Imola. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took P2 after being hampered by a late red flag, while Lando Norris managed P3 on the grid for McLaren.

    After Leclerc topped FP1 the rain subsided well before Friday’s qualifying session and the field emerged on soft tyres for Q1, in which he again set the fastest time to go half a second ahead of Verstappen. Q2 saw a greater threat of rain, Verstappen topping those timesheets before Sainz crashed from P2 – and then the clouds unleashed.

    Intermediates would have to be donned for the final shootout and it was there that Verstappen set the early benchmark of 1m 27.999s – just as Valtteri Bottas crashed to bring out the fourth red flag of the afternoon with three minutes remaining.

    Nearly eight-tenths off, Leclerc had one last chance to pry provisional pole away from the reigning champion but was left second and 0.799s off after the red flag. Norris took third for McLaren but slid off track in the final seconds of Q3, while Kevin Magnussen finished a fine fourth for Haas and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top five for Alpine.

    In sixth was Norris’s team mate Daniel Ricciardo while Sergio Perez could only manage P7 for Red Bull, ahead of Bottas – who was eighth before crashing his Alfa Romeo. Vettel, managing Q3 in his Aston Martin, took P9 to leave Ferrari’s Sainz in a de facto P10 after crashing out of Q2.

    Mercedes missed out on Q3, both George Russell (P11) and Lewis Hamilton (P13) in the drop zone before rain hit in Q2. Mick Schumacher split the Silver Arrows for Haas in P12 while Zhou Guanyu was 14th, despite going P4 in Q1. That left Lance Stroll 15th for Aston Martin.

    Nicholas Latifi missed out on Q2 in P18 for Williams, behind both AlphaTauris – Yuki Tsunoda P16 and Pierre Gasly P17 – in a less-than-ideal start to their home weekend.

    Esteban Ocon suffered a suspected gearbox issue and ended up 19th, while Alex Albon was eliminated from Q1 when his right-rear brake caught fire and spread debris on the track, putting the Williams a provisional P20 on the grid for the Sprint.

    Q1 – Leclerc shows ominous pace while Zhou stars

    Though the clouds were hanging thick and low over Imola, the rain had stopped and a mix of slicks and intermediates were used early in Q1, Hamilton one of the only intermediate runners before following suit and switching to softs.

    Dry line now clear, Lance Stroll set the first benchmark for Aston Martin – before the session was red flagged with 12 minutes remaining, Albon’s right-rear brake up in flames and spreading red-hot debris in its wake. He limped it back into the pits but the Williams was out of qualifying.

    After the pause in proceedings, the track was abuzz with activity and times would soon tumble, Leclerc setting the best time of 1m 18.796s – Verstappen half a second behind and Sainz close in P3. Zhou was next up for Alfa Romeo, leaving Perez fifth for Red Bull.

    McLaren’s Ricciardo took sixth, Norris eighth, sandwiching Haas driver Magnussen. Alonso took P9, just behind Norris, while the Aston Martins were next up, Stroll 10th and Vettel 11th.

    Russell finished 12th ahead of Mercedes alumnus Bottas, who put his Alfa Romeo 13th. Schumacher shrugged off an off-track excursion to take P14 in Q1, safely through by 0.050s.

    Hamilton’s last-gap effort put him into P15, 0.004s ahead of AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda, who missed out on Q2. “How far are we off, man, that’s crazy?!” exclaimed Hamilton before learning of the 1.6s gulf between himself and P1.

    Tsunoda’s team mate Gasly could only take P17, making it an early elimination for both of AlphaTauri’s drivers at their home circuit. Latifi spun after the red flag and finished 18th for Williams, ahead of Alpine driver Ocon – who aborted his final effort with a suspected gearbox issue – and Albon.

    Knocked out: Tsunoda, Gasly, Latifi, Ocon, Albon

    Q2 – Sainz hits trouble before rain hits the track

    “You will get one timed lap before the rain is coming,” said Sainz’s engineer over the radio. That set the stage for a mad dash to set a slick-tyred benchmark. The Spaniard went second, 0.197s off then-leader Verstappen, but spun and crashed going into the final left-hander.

    The red flag was called with 11 minutes left, and the clouds hanging lower and lower – Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll in the drop zone. The umbrellas soon unfurled, and those drivers’ fates were essentially sealed.

    Though the session restarted, Verstappen’s time of 1m 18.793s would therefore prove the Q2 benchmark, Sainz second but his Scuderia stricken, while Norris was third – half a second off for McLaren. Perez took P4 (0.002s behind) and Leclerc rounded out the top five, another 0.3s back in his Ferrari.

    Alonso finished sixth with another solid time for Alpine, Magnussen 0.3s back in P7 for Haas.

    Vettel sealed Aston Martin’s first Q3 appearance of 2022 in P8 (and emerged for a late intermediate run alongside Leclerc), Ricciardo and Bottas rounding out the top 10. That left the aforementioned quintet, including both Mercedes, unable to make it to Q3.

    Knocked out: Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou, Stroll

    Q3 – Verstappen snatches pole between red flags

    The nine remaining drivers donned intermediates for the final segment of qualifying, the rain having ceased but the track still damp.

    Magnussen then brought out a red flag with nine minutes left, seemingly beaching his car at Acque Minerale to mirror Bottas’s FP1 excursion – but rescued his Haas from the gravel to soldier on to the joy of his pit crew. The rain then returned to ensure a damp finish to Friday evening.

    Five minutes left and the lap times began to file in, Leclerc going top with a 1m 28.778s – Verstappen just 0.020s behind – at the first attempt. Verstappen then improved to a 1m 27.999s, just after Bottas crashed to bring out a red flag going into Turn 16. Leclerc was 0.779s behind, with enough on the clock for one more timed lap.

    Verstappen led Leclerc out but, given how difficult their out-laps seemed, it was clear that neither driver would improve. Norris would soon render this stand-off academic when he crashed out with 40 seconds left, leaving Verstappen in P1, Leclerc P2 and Norris himself third.

    Magnussen took a brilliant P4 for Haas, Alonso a rapid fifth for Alpine, and Ricciardo sixth in the other McLaren – leaving Perez seventh for Red Bull and Bottas eighth after crashing his Alfa Romeo.

    Vettel secured P9 for Aston Martin while Sainz starts a provisional P10 for the Sprint after his Q2 crash.

  2. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton admitted that “each weekend is a rescue” right now for the Mercedes team as the car is struggling for pace compared to its rivals. has the news story.

    Lewis Hamilton feels that “each weekend is a rescue” currently for Mercedes in Formula 1 after the team suffered a double Q2 exit at Imola on Friday.

    Hamilton scraped through to the second stage of qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix by just four-thousandths of a second, but could not make it through to top-10 shootout.

    A red flag after the initial runs in Q2 gave time for incoming rain to scupper any chance of improving lap times, leaving Hamilton 13th, two places behind Mercedes teammate George Russell.

    It marked the second time in four races Hamilton failed to reach Q3, having been knocked out in Q1 in Saudi Arabia, and was the first time since Japan 2012 that Mercedes didn’t get a car into the final stage of qualifying.

    “It wasn’t a great session, naturally it’s disappointing,” Hamilton said.

    “[You] come here with optimism and you know everyone is working really hard at the factory, and things just don’t come together.

    “It’s disappointing. I think we underperformed as a team today. There are things that we should have done that we didn’t do.

    “Anyways. We’ll work as hard as we can to move up in the sprint race. It’s going to be a difficult race, but hopefully tomorrow is better weather-wise, and who knows, maybe we’ll move our way forwards.”

    Hamilton and Russell will have the chance to move forward during the 21-lap sprint race tomorrow, the results of which will then set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

    Asked if the sprint meant there was still a chance to rescue something from the weekend, Hamilton replied: “We’ll just keep working hard. Each weekend is a rescue.”

    Hamilton was seen speaking with Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff at the back of the garage after dropping out in Q2, but was reluctant to share the contents of their conversation.

    “It’s all internal stuff,” Hamilton said. “So I’d rather not share that.”

    Russell explained that he struggled chiefly with tyre temperature through qualifying at Imola, with the recurring red flags not helping Mercedes to build up much of a rhythm.

    “It was a bit of a shame with how the red flags panned out today,” Russell said.

    “But if there is a weekend to not be where we want to be, a sprint weekend is the one to do it. [It’s] not ideal, but we got a chance to recover these positions tomorrow.”

    Russell was also uncertain the sprint race would offer much of a chance for Mercedes to move forward, noting the lack of overtaking chances there often are in the Saturday events.

    “It’s going to be a bit tricky going into the race tomorrow,” Russell said.

    “Usually in these sprint races, not so much happens. It’ll be interesting with these new cars if we can follow a bit closer.

    “But I don’t think there’s enough laps with enough degradation for us to take our advantage where we’re generally stronger compared to our current rivals, which this weekend aren’t the top two teams.

    “So let’s see what we can do. We’ve got Sunday as well. [We] can only go up.”

  3. Max Verstappen’s brilliant pole position lap for Formula 1’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix raised some eyebrows as it came after he passed through a yellow flag zone.

    A mechanical problem for Valtteri Bottas on the run out of the Variante Alta had left the Finn’s Alfa Romeo stationary at the side of the track, and brought out the warning flags for drivers.

    Verstappen was one of the first cars through there, and duly completed his lap to secure a session-topping time.

    While a long ago it may have been the case for drivers to lose improved laptimes automatically if they passed through yellow flags, this time there was no problem for Verstappen because he had fully obeyed the current requirements laid down in F1.

    For practice and qualifying sessions, the drivers must follow the guidelines laid down by F1 race director Niels Wittich in his pre-event race notes at each event.

    He makes clear there is a big distinction between how drivers must behave when there is a double yellow and what happens when there is a single yellow.

    Had the double yellow flags been put out for Bottas’ incident, then Verstappen would have had no choice but to abandon his lap.

    The notes states that: “Any driver passing through a double waved yellow marshalling sector must reduce speed significantly and be prepared to change direction or stop.

    “In order for the stewards to be satisfied that any such driver has complied with these requirements it must be clear that he has not attempted to set a meaningful lap time, for practical purposes any driver in a double yellow sector will have that laptime deleted.”

    In the case of Bottas, his car being stopped at the side of the track required just a single yellow flag – which is treated differently.

    With just a single warning flag out, the FIA demands: “Drivers should reduce their speed and be prepared to change direction. It must be clear that a driver has reduced speed and, in order for this to be clear, a driver would be expected to have braked earlier and/or discernibly reduced speed in the relevant marshalling sector.”

    In Verstappen’s case, it is obvious from the onboard footage of his pole lap that he duly took the right action.

    He not only lifted as he passed the yellow flag warning signal and Bottas’ Alfa Romeo, but he also changed down from seventh gear to sixth gear, further making clear that he had seen and reacted to the incident.

    The Dutchman’s actions were why his Red Bull team had no doubts in the immediate aftermath of the incident that he would not face any worries over a potential FIA investigation.


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