Ferrari power proves mighty in Imola rain: 2022 Emilia Romagna GP practice report


Both Ferraris topped the timesheet convincingly after the first practice session for the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola

Sparks and spray from Haas F1 car at Imola

Mick Schumacher was fifth fastest for Haas

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

A different continent, but the same story: Ferrari topped the timesheets in practice ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc 1.4sec faster than third-placed Max Verstappen.

Both Ferrari-powered Haas cars finished in the top five, but Mercedes appeared to lack pace and stability once again: George Russell was tenth fastest, while Lewis Hamilton was only ranked 18th.

The first European round of the season brought wet conditions at Imola, with rain still falling at the start of the only practice session before qualifying.

This weekend’s sprint race mean cars go straight into qualifying and parc fermé conditions but despite the limited time to gain data, drivers were reticent to leave the pit garage and head into the Imola rain.

Valtteri Bottas headed out first on full wet tyres, fishtailing along the cold, slippery track, followed by the Haas cars. It wasn’t long before the conditions claimed their first victims.

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Charles Leclerc span first at Turn 14 in the Variante Alta chicane. In quick succession, Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi, Alex Albon, Lando Norris and Sainz also had off-track excursions.

The right-handers at Acque Minerale were catching some out, with many others struggling with the run down to Turn 17 at Rivazza.

With just over 20 minutes gone, Sainz estimated that the track needed another 10min of running before it was ready for intermediate tyres, his team-mate illustrating how treacherous it remained again with a spin on the white line at Acque Minerale again.

The list of off-track excursions continued: Esteban Ocon clattering across the gravel track at Rivazza, crunching the older-spec floor on his Alpine, rather than the upgraded version given to Fernando Alonso.

The rain reappeared 25min into the session, with most cars back into the pits, but Vettel was soon out, braving a run on intermediate tyres. He was immediately quicker, going fifth fastest, compared with the rest of the grid running full wets.

Halfway through practice, Perez headed the timesheets, but there were just two-tenths of a second covering the top three:

1 Sergio Perez, Red Bull, 1min 35.476sec
2 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1min 35.629sec
3 Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 1min 35.753sec
4 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1min 36.158sec
5 Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, 1min 36.537sec

With a clear racing line established, more intermediate runners streamed onto the circuit and up the timesheets. Lando Norris posted a time 0.1sec slower than Perez’s full-wet lap, Soon afterwards Carlos Sainz, taking a new engine this weekend after crashing out of the Australian Grand Prix, went 1.7sec faster than the Red Bull on intermediates.

Magnussen continued to be caught out by Turn 17, and crunched across the gravel, as Sainz continued to up the pace, posting a 1min 32.606sec lap, pipped shortly afterwards by Leclerc who was less than a tenth quicker — a lap after spinning again.

Valtteri Bottas crashes out of practice at Imola for the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Bottas was beached after coming off at Acque Minerale

Lars Baron/F1 via Getty Images

The Ferrari drivers continued trading times, as the track dried, while Magnussen managed to stay on track to show the Haas’s pace. He was fourth fastest behind Verstappen with 10min to go.

Others were still finding it difficult to stay on track: Verstappen, Gasly, Perez and Vettel all leaving the asphalt, but continuing to run.

Lando Norris didn’t escape quite so easily, spinning into the gravel at Acque Minerale and having to reverse out — the red flag was waved as he waited for a gap.

All but five cars headed out for the quickly restarted session, with just three minutes left. It was enough time for Acque Minerale to claim a final victim, as Valtteri Bottas ran over the gravel and beaching himself. Fortunately for the Finn, he missed the wall by just a few inches: the Alfa lives to fight in qualifying.


2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix First Practice timing

Driver Team Fastest lap
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1min 29.402sec
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.877sec
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.465sec
4 Kevin Magnussen Haas +3.037sec
5 Mich Schumacher Haas +3.586sec
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull +3.610sec
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine +3.758sec
8 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +3.963sec
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +4.209sec
10 George Russell Mercedes +4.860sec
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +5.213sec
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +5.702sec
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine +6.018sec
14 Lando Norris McLaren +6.100sec
15 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +6.223sec
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +6.631sec
17 Alex Albon Williams +7.059sec
18 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +7.062sec
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +8.048sec
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams +10.296sec