Sprint and slipstreams: 2022 Emilia Romagna GP what to watch for


Will Ferrari reign supreme around a happy hunting ground or can Red Bull go back to back at Imola?

Imola GP 2021

The Emilia Romagna GP could be the first wet weather race of the new F1 era

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The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is fast approaching and is a highly-anticipated weekend on multiple fronts.

Fresh from signing a new F1 deal to keep Imola on the ever-expanding calendar until at least 2025, the circuit looks set to open the second phase of the 2022 title fight.

Multiple top teams are expected to bring sizeable updates with them to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, including Red Bull and Mercedes.

This weekend will also be the first sprint race weekend of the season. The concept brought plenty of drama last year in the title fight, with each race weekend causing controversy between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

Will 2022 be more of the same?

Here are a few things you will want to keep watch for during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.




The rest of the pack is playing catch up to Ferrari

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McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes are each expected to bring updates for this weekend’s race as the development war evolves.

Red Bull is eager to overturn the deficit to Ferrari as soon as possible, Mercedes is desperate to address its porpoising woes and McLaren is still trying to extract performance following its overheating brakes issue.

World championship leader Ferrari is rumoured to be playing things a little more cool, opting to stick with its initial package and understanding it fully before attempting to find further performance gains elsewhere.

That is a luxury afforded to it by the growing gap between itself and rivals in the constructors’, as well as the comfortable lead Charles Leclerc is enjoying in the drivers’ too.

Red Bull has always been a team that develops its cars at a startling rate, so expect more new pieces on the RB18 this weekend. Mercedes pushed back its prospective floor update from Australia to Imola and instead focused on understanding the porpoising issue as much as possible.

Will the extra sensors fitted to Lewis Hamilton’s car last time out have shone a light on the situation? McLaren also appeared to be more competitive around Albert Park but whether that was a false dawn or accurate step forward remains to be seen.




Will the sprint race weekend bring more contact between title contenders?

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Imola will be the first sprint race weekend of three during the 2022 F1 season, and there’s a little bit of change from last year’s format.

2021 was the first season in which Formula 1 experimented with the concept of a sprint race format, with a 100km race run on Saturday in order to set the grid for Sunday’s main event.

This year, pole position for the weekend will be recorded in the history books as the fastest qualifier on Friday rather than the winner of the sprint on Saturday. The results of the sprint race will still form the grid though for Sunday’s grand prix.

Under the old rules, only the podium finishers were awarded with points scaling from three for the winner and one for third place. This year, the top eight will earn points on a sliding scale from eight going to the winner and one for eighth place.

While F1’s upper management had been pushing for as many as eight sprint races to be held this season, only Imola, the Red Bull Ring and São Paulo will get hosting rights at the Emilia Romagna, Austrian and Brazilian Grands Prix respectively.


Here comes the rain again


Verstappen and Hamilton in the spray during last year’s race

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Last year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was the first rain-affected race of the 2021 season and played host to the one of the first flashpoints between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the title race.

It led to a dramatic crash between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, Hamilton in the gravel and almost had Verstappen around on the race restart as he led the pack.

Could there be more of the same this year on the way?

Weather predictions and Formula 1 go together like cheese and wine except the wine was supposed to arrive 45 minutes ago and the cheese that was promised turns out to be an old Babybel from the back of the fridge.

But the prediction of rain can’t be ignored and could promise to make the ’22 Emilia Romagna GP a memorable one as the first of the new generation of cars to be a wet weather race.


The DRS effect


The main straight has led to one of the only overtaking spots on the calendar

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Since the removal of the final chicane at Imola and the circuit’s return to the F1 calendar, the main straight has been a slipstreaming fest entering the first corner.

There has been plenty of side-by-side approaching the Variante Tamburello chicane, but this year there could potentially be even more with the revamped regulations appearing to be a success so far.

Drivers have been able to follow one another much closer than in previous seasons thanks to the refocusing of aerodynamic performance around ground effect, with 10 overtakes for the lead across three races.

Leclerc and Verstappen have been cordial so far but there’s no denying the reigning champion is quickly losing his grasp on the crown.

Already 46 points down on the Monégasque and sat in sixth position in the drivers’ standings, Verstappen may be forced to get his elbows out in a similar fashion to how he races against Hamilton last season.

An extra tow down the main straight could be all that’s needed to set up plenty more on-track action around a circuit that has been historically difficult to overtake around.