Like what we saw last year in Imola, the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP entertained fans brilliantly. A weather change mid-race almost guarantees drama. For me, the most mind-blowing part about this race is still the official name of the race. In Italian, the name of the race is the Formula 1 Rolex Gran Premio Del Made In Italy E Dell’Emilia-Romagna 2022. The name of the race in Italian has the English name of a brand in the middle of it. Most people call this race the Emilia Romagna GP, or maybe even the Imola GP.
On to the actual racing now, there was no shortage of action during this weekend. One of the main reasons for this is that F1’s first Sprint Race of the year was at Imola. After the success of the 3 Sprint Races that took place last year, we’ve got the 3 on the calendar this year. Imola was the first, meaning Max Verstappen won the first Sprint of the year. The Sprint race didn’t fail to excite us because it provided us with plenty of on-track action. With some drivers charging through the field, the battle for the lead added the cherry on top to a great sprint race. This was the type of action we were looking for in Sprint races last year.
In this post, I will also look at the Red Bull vs Ferrari battle. This race was the first home race for Ferrari, and it was painfully disastrous. Comparing that to Red Bull’s 1-2 just amplifies the Tifosi’s pain. The Bulls weren’t the only drivers to succeed in Imola. Lando Norris finished on the podium for the first time this year. Comparing this podium to McLaren’s performance in Bahrain is mind-blowing. That’s exactly what I’m going to do in this post. I’m going to look at the outstanding and underwhelming performances. Some teams, did struggle in Imola, with Alpine being a prime example. Let’s get into the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP Race Review!
Failure For Ferrari At Home But Glory For Red Bull
Charles Leclerc achieved a Grand Slam at the 2022 Australian GP. That was Round 3 of the season, which is an incredibly early Grand Slam. But Max Verstappen replied with some sweet redemption for that disappointing weekend. Max Verstappen had a near-perfect weekend in Imola, with a Grand Slam to show for it. For the first time since 1979, two different drivers have scored a Grand Slam within the same season of F1. It’s unbelievable! But what’s most intriguing is in 1979, none of those 2 drivers won the championship! It would be nothing short of mind-blowing if that happened this year.
At the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP, Verstappen qualified in 1st. That was in Friday qualifying which meant he started on pole position for the Sprint. At the start, Leclerc got a better start and got into the lead. His pace was really strong, but he struggled with the tires in the dying laps of the Sprint. That allowed Max Verstappen to overtake him and secure the win. That also secured pole position for Sunday’s race. Verstappen went on to win the Grand Prix after leading every lap and securing the fastest lap of the race. It was sensational, and a huge confidence boost for the reigning World Champion.
Unlike in the Sprint, it was Leclerc who got a terrible start to the race. He fell to P4 behind Norris and Perez, with Verstappen retaining the lead. To make matters worse, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz made contact, with Sainz having to retire after getting stuck in a gravel trap for the 2nd race in a row!
It was disastrous for Sainz. The weekend had already been pretty up-and-down for him. In Q2, he crashed out, but still qualified for Q3. He couldn’t compete in Q3, however, so he started the Sprint in P10. In the sprint, Sainz was ON FIRE. This is one of the main reasons it’s such a shame that Sainz couldn’t finish the Grand Prix. He had amazing form in the sprint race. Sainz stormed through the midfield and finished the Sprint in P4. I was really looking forward to seeing him challenging Perez, Verstappen and Leclerc in the Grand Prix because I felt like he was capable of that.
But instead of bouncing back from Australia, Sainz ended up repeating it. The only difference is that this time, this was nobody’s fault. Sainz didn’t make a mistake, and Ricciardo didn’t really make a mistake either. Ricciardo got on the kerb slightly heavily at Turn 2, but since Turn 2 narrowly leads into Turn 3, Ricciardo couldn’t help but make contact with Sainz. It was a racing incident that unfortunately resulted in Sainz retiring and Ricciardo being the last of the drivers to finish the race.
Sergio Perez slipped into P2 at the start, so Ferrari had one driver in P3, the other driver had retired, but Red Bull had their drivers in 1st and 2nd. Sainz’s stricken car meant that the Race Director deployed the Safety Car to allow the marshals to return the car back to Ferrari. That’s pure heartbreak for Ferrari and Sainz. The fact that this was a home race for Ferrari surely amplified the pain. I hope Sainz and the team can bounce back so that Sainz can unleash the beast and put in some strong performances in that Ferrari.
As for Charles Leclerc, he got back into P3 after overtaking Lando Norris on Lap 8. It took the Monegasque surprisingly long to overtake a driver who he lapped at the 2022 Bahrain GP. Leclerc then slowly started gaining time on Sergio Perez. The gap between Perez and Leclerc went from 2.8 seconds to 1 second by the time Perez pitted. He pitted at the end of Lap 18, and he got rid of the intermediate tires and put on a set of medium tires. That’s the same lap that most of the field pitted, excluding Verstappen, Leclerc and Norris who pitted a lap later. Red Bull weren’t taking too much of a gamble with Perez, because Gasly, Albon and Vettel pitted on Lap 17.
When Leclerc came out of the pits, he came out just ahead of Sergio Perez, meaning the overcut worked for Ferrari. But Leclerc struggled with cold tires, meaning Perez could overtake him into the Variante Villeneuve. The race stayed at a stalemate for a while. Verstappen maintained a solid lead, and Perez stayed ahead of Leclerc. Ferrari were desperate to try and snatch P2 from Perez. And on top of that, Leclerc was struggling with tire wear, which is an issue that Ferrari have faced in the past. So to try and beat Red Bull, Ferrari brought Leclerc into the pits for a fresh set of softs.
It was initially working for them. Perez came in a lap later to react to Leclerc’s strategy, but Leclerc was catching the Red Bull. On fresh tires, he was pretty fast. He was clearly pushing very hard. But for the first time this season, we saw a big mistake from Leclerc. He pushed the car too hard. Leclerc rode the kerb too heavily at Turn 14, which spun his car and sent him into the barrier. The spin only lost him one position, but the front wing damage from the contact with the barrier condemned Leclerc to an extra pitstop. Leclerc fell to P9 because of the pitstop. On the soft tires, he made somewhat of a recovery drive. He overtook Magnussen, Vettel, and on the penultimate lap of the race, Tsunoda. He made a bad day worse, and it was very disappointing.
Outstanding Performances vs Underwhelming Performances
Lastly, let’s look at the best and worst performances. The best performances for me were Lando Norris, George Russell, Sebastian Vettel, and Yuki Tsunoda. Lando Norris nailed his consistency game – he was consistently faster than his teammate and his midfield competitors, and truly bounced back, especially after how tough the first 2 races of the season were for him and McLaren. The team have only made minor upgrades on the car to benefit them for each race. It’s truly unbelievable how they’ve turned it around in such a short period of time.
Moving onto George Russell, he’s finished in the Top 5 in each of the races in 2022. He’s doing very well in Mercedes and is doing much better than his 7-time World Champion teammate. I think that a race win is on the cards for George, despite the Mercedes car being FAR off the pace. Yuki Tsunoda once again showed how strong his race pace is. He had a disappointing qualifying and qualified in P16. However, in the sprint race, he gained 4 places, and another 5 in the Grand Prix to finish in P7.
Tsunoda had a lightning start to the GP. He went up into P10, and then P9 when Alonso retired. From there, he fought Kevin Magnussen and Sebastian Vettel. Magnussen is an experienced driver in a strong car, whereas Vettel is a 4-time World Champion in a terrible car. Tsunoda beat both of these drivers, and he beat his teammate, making it a great race for him. It was also AlphaTauri’s home GP, which makes Tsunoda’s achievements even better.
Speaking of Vettel, I was glad to see him scoring points and actually competing in the midfield after the disasterclass in Australia. Vettel overtook Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher on Lap 1, and gained 2 positions because of Ricciardo and Sainz. He then gained a position due to Fernando Alonso retiring. And unlike in the Sprint, Vettel only lost 1 position after that, and that was to the fast-charging Tsunoda, and of course, to Charles Leclerc, who was already ahead of Vettel for most of the race. It was a fantastic comeback after Australia, and I hope that we can see Seb in the points for more races.
Coming to the bad performances, Alpine had a weekend to forget, with Fernando Alonso retiring, and Ocon finishing P14. Alonso retired because his sidepod exterior flew off. It was damaged because a spinning Schumacher hit the sidepod on Lap 1. It was unfortunate and something that Alonso could do nothing about. The most underwhelming performance for me was Lewis Hamilton. He couldn’t overtake Pierre Gasly. He couldn’t overtake an AlphaTauri, which is mind-blowing to me.
Hamilton finished in P13. He’s really struggling because this can’t just be an issue with the car. Russell is still up there doing well. I think that Hamilton needs to figure out how to deal with the car. The backlash, hate and heavy criticism is wrong, but he does need to find a way to at least match his teammate. That’s it for this race review; I hope you enjoyed it. The 2022 Emilia Romagna GP was very exciting, and now I can’t wait for the 2022 Miami GP!