Red Bull celebrates rare 1-2 after Ferrari home race horror: 2022 Emilia Romagna GP report


Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez looked in control of the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix from the off, but Ferrari made Red Bull's day even easier in front of its own Imola crowd

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez celebrate Red Bull 1-2 at 2022 Emilia Romagna GP

Peter Fox/Getty Images

The fairytale just wasn’t to be for Ferrari at Imola, but its drivers shot themselves in the foot a little bit to allow Red Bull to close up even more quickly in what is set to be a thrilling title fight.

Max Verstappen’s pole position on Friday was earned without seeing the full potential of Charles Leclerc over one lap, and when the championship leader got the better start in the sprint to lead the first 19 laps, it looked like being another Ferrari weekend. But Verstappen hit back to win, and Sunday’s Grand Prix was even more convincing from the defending champion.

Heavy rain overnight was followed by a beautiful morning in Emilia Romagna, but from midday onwards the clouds gathered and there were more downpours, ensuring a wet start to the race with the entire field on intermediates.

Unlike Saturday, Verstappen got a clean start and it was Leclerc who was slow away, dropping behind both Sergio Perez and the fast-starting Lando Norris.

Overhead shot of Max Verstappen leading at the start of the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP

Both Ferraris fall back at the start


Both McLarens had good getaways and Daniel Ricciardo was ahead on the inside of Carlos Sainz approaching Tamburello, but the Spaniard hit the brakes later and looked to have regained the spot around the outside before right front hit left rear and Sainz was spun into the gravel and out of the race.

“It was a difficult start as you saw but there was still 63 laps left so even if you lose a position to a McLaren like Lando there’s still a long race to go, especially in those conditions,” Sainz said. “Unfortunately I think I left plenty of space for Daniel on the inside but he decided to get on the kerb and understeer into me, and that was it for my race. Very unlucky, nothing I could do differently there.

“It’s tough, I’m not happy. It’s tough to go through it, especially in a home race like this with all the tifosi getting the support from them and wanting to put on a good race for them. It was still a long race ahead and for some reason I was the unlucky guy that had to pay for someone’s mistake.”

Daniel Ricciardo hits Carlos Sainz in the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP

Ricciardo and Sainz exit the asphalt

Florent Gooden / DPPI

Ricciardo had to trundle through the run-off to rejoin and his race was all but over too, but Valtteri Bottas escaped unharmed after running into the back of the McLaren in the melee.

There was more going on as the field snaked through the opening chicane, with Mick Schumacher sliding into the gravel and his left rear taking a chunk out of Fernando Alonso’s right-hand bodywork as he went round.

With the safety car deployed to recover the stricken Ferrari, the big winners were Kevin Magnussen in fifth and George Russell remarkably up to sixth from outside the top ten in a start that would set him up for a much stronger run than his team-mate.

The race restarted after four laps and Alonso soon started dropping through the field due to his damage, with the bodywork on his sidepod flying off as Lewis Hamilton overtook him on the pit straight, with the second Spaniard retiring at the end of lap six.

Mick Schumacher hits Fernando Alonso at the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP

Schumacher impact dented Alonso’s Alpine — terminally

Grand Prix Photo

It took another two laps for Leclerc to clear Norris for third and set off after Perez, with the initial expectation that he would be able to make further progress, but conditions didn’t help. As the track dried, the intermediates became tougher to handle and Magnussen started to fade, with Russell passing him once into Tamburello, running wide and losing the place but then getting it done into the Curva Gresini – the former Variante Alta – to move into fifth.

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Once Bottas also cleared Magnussen at the penultimate corner it was clear slick tyres were worth a gamble despite teams fearing more rain, and Ricciardo – with nothing to lose at the back of the field – was first to jump. As soon as the McLaren posted an improved middle sector on his out lap, Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon followed him in, before all but Verstappen, Leclerc and Norris did so on the next lap.

A slow stop hurt Hamilton as he was beaten out of the pits by Esteban Ocon, although an unsafe release saw the Frenchman emerge alongside the Mercedes initially and force Hamilton to brake, earning Ocon a five-second time penalty. Hamilton dropped to 14th behind those on warmer tyres and found himself stuck from that point on, as one dry line emerged that made overtaking nigh-on impossible.

There was little happening without DRS activated, but lap 41 saw a remarkable moment as Verstappen – now some ten seconds clear of Perez and Leclerc – lapped Hamilton. It was around that time that DRS was finally enabled but Hamilton found himself in a train behind Gasly and Albon, preventing any of those involved to make further progress. In fact, only Yuki Tsunoda was making moves, reeling in Magnussen and passing him for eighth on lap 47.

Max Verstappen comes up to lap Lewis Hamilton at the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP

Blue flags for Hamilton as Verstappen approaches to lap him

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But two laps later, after what had been a largely processional race, Ferrari tried something different that would ultimately backfire. Leclerc stopped for a second time for soft tyres, forcing Perez to do the same and allowing Verstappen a free stop too.

Perez stayed ahead, although Leclerc was close and put pressure on, but just as the fight looked to be settling down the championship leader took too much kerb at the Curva Gresini and spun into the wall, damaging his front wing. Leclerc managed to recover to the pits but the resulting stop dropped him to ninth.

Suddenly, there was action as Leclerc had ten laps to fight back, and he managed to dispatch Magnussen, Vettel and Tsunoda to climb back to sixth, but ahead of him Bottas was well clear.

“It is a big shame,” Leclerc said. “Whatever happened before the spin it’s how it is, it’s part of racing you know. But I believe that the spin should not have happened today. I mean P3 was the best I could do, we didn’t have the pace for much more and I was too greedy and I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points compared to my third place I was before.

“It is a shame, it’s seven points that are valuable at the end of the championship for sure, this shouldn’t happen again.”

Charles Leclerc looks thoughtful after the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP

“The spin should not have happened today,” said Leclerc

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Had Bottas tried a risky move on Russell late on Leclerc might have had an added bonus, but there was no repeat of the pair’s collision a year ago as the Finn settled for fifth, while the new Mercedes driver continued a quite remarkable run in a difficult car.

Even more remarkable was Norris standing on the podium given where McLaren started 2022, but he was quick all weekend and it was just reward for a strong drive.

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“Surprised I guess to be here, but it feels amazing,” Norris said. “From where we were three or four weeks ago in Bahrain to being on the podium, I genuinely didn’t think we’d be on the podium all year after Bahrain so it’s quite a shock.

“Maybe not surprising after the progress we made after the last month but to be on the podium with how much quicker the Red Bulls and Ferraris are, it’s hard to ever imagine yourself on the podium.

“A great result today would have been P5 but a few good things throughout this race, an amazing start to be ahead of both the Ferraris, to stay out of the chaos which happened behind. It was a lonely but great race, just managing the gap to George, looking after the tyres for the whole stint… Everything went well all weekend, not just the race today but qualifying P3 already was a pretty good achievement for us.”

Lando Norris on the podium at the 2022 Emilia Romagna GP

A second podium in two Imola GPs for Norris

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

And to continue the theme, it’s scarcely believable that Perez following home Verstappen handed Red Bull its first one-two result in six years, with the defending champion picking up the maximum 34 points from the weekend after adding the fastest lap to his sprint success.

“Of course Melbourne wasn’t great for us and the start of the season in general wasn’t amazing, so we needed a good weekend,” Verstappen said. “I didn’t expect it to be like this, but when you have a weekend like this that’s incredible. A one-two for the team but also maximum points scored – and also the way I think we handled the race. We didn’t really make any mistakes, I think we made the right calls switching from the inters to the slicks and from there on we just controlled the race.

“It probably seemed easy on the TV but you still have to be focused, especially with backmarkers. It’s easy when you’re off-line to lock-up or go through a wet patch and go off the track. So we just managed that, but the car was handling really well. We saw yesterday already in sprint qualifying that we had good pace in the car and we could look after our tyres quite nicely, so a very positive weekend.”

The upshot is Verstappen cutting Leclerc’s championship lead to 27 points and Red Bull moving just 11 points behind Ferrari, with the first big error from one of the two main title contenders coming in front of a deflated tifosi.

Max Verstappen celebrates victory in the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix results

Position Driver Team Time Points
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1hr 32min 07.986sec 26*
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +16.527sec 18
3 Lando Norris McLaren +34.834sec 15
4 George Russell Mercedes +42.506sec 12
5 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +43.181sec 10
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +56.072sec 8
7 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1min 01.110sec 6
8 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1min 10.892sec 4
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1min 15.260sec 2
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1 lap 1
11 Alex Albon Williams +1 lap
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1 lap
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap**
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams +1 lap
17 Mick Schumacher Haas +1 lap
18 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1 lap
19 Fernando Alonso Alpine DNF
20 Carlos Sainz Ferrari DNF

*Includes additional point for fastest lap
** 5sec penalty applied after the finish