Red Bull and Max Verstappen needed an emphatic win at the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to make up for three DNFs in earlier races, and they did it in style, while Ferrari – on the track named after their founder Enzo and his son Dino – simply imploded.
What started as a day with potential for Ferrari, turned into a nightmare as first Carlos Sainz spun out on lap one, as the current F1 Championship leader Charles Leclerc threw away a sure podium with the finish in sight, dropping down to ninth.
A nightmare scenario for the Scuderia on a weekend that promised so much, but is a stake reminder to Tifosi how fickle F1 can be, with scant respect for emotions and pedigree. This defeat to Red Bull will hurt deeply at Maranello for a long time and could well be the tipping point for Verstappen in this title race.
The reigning F1 World Champion was in another league, as he was last year in similar conditions, adding the Grand Prix victory on Sunday to the win he scored a day earlier in the Sprint Race. He also bagged the fastest lap for good measure. As mentioned – dominant.
Before picking up his 22nd F1 winner’s trophy, Verstappen said in Parc Ferme: “Already yesterday and the day before, we were on it and it was looking like a strong weekend. As a team, we did everything well, and this 1-2 is well deserved.
“The start was important but also judging conditions when to swap to the slicks. Everything was well managed,” added the Dutch ace.
A couple of earlier, when the red lights went out to start the race, the left-hand lane side of the grid offered all the grip which allowed Verstappen, Perez and Norris to scurry ahead into Turn 1, while Leclerc’s side struggled for traction.
When it rains it pours for some people, on this occasion Carlos Sainz
Sainz was handed some appalling luck on a day he needed to shine and needed a friend; his Ferrari was clattered into from behind by Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren before they even completed a lap. Sainz slid backwards into the kitty litter where he remained beached for a very short Sunday at the office for him.
Verstappen led after the safety car with Perez tucked behind him as the Red Bull’s controlled the pace with the leader pegged at about 6-7 seconds for the first quarter of the race.
While the team pit walls predicted more rain all race long that never came, the truth was the opposite. The track was drying far more rapidly than expected.
With nothing to lose McLaren pulled in Ricciardo for a set of Pirelli medium slicks to get the ball rolling on lap 18 a lap later Perez was among several who went early onto the mediums. Notably, Leclerc went an extra lap.
He emerged out of the pits with the Ferrari ahead of Perez, but with his tyres hotter thanks to the extra lap, he got by Leclerc to restore the Red Bull one-two at the front.
Within a couple of laps, all running cars were on yellow band slicks.
The heavier rain that was predicted never came and it remained dry tyres until the end
At midrace it was pretty much a stalemate with Verstappen just under eight seconds ahead and controlling the race, Perez was next fighting off Leclerc for second place.
So dull was it up the order the director found the battle for Albon, Gasly and Hamilton… yes Lewis Hamilton in that woeful Mercedes simply nowhere all afternoon and was lapped by his former foe Verstappen on lap 41 to add insult to injury for the seven-time F1 World champion
At this point, Norris was fourth with Russell in fifth, followed by Bottas, Vettel, Magnussen, Tsunoda and Stroll in the top ten.
At the front, Perez was the first to pit for Softs, followed by Leclerc and Verstappen; Checo doing well to get ahead of Charles and staying there, forcing the Ferrari driver to attack, too much it turns out on lap 54 when he tagged the wall, third gone and another trip to the pits for a check-up.
Perez did all that could have been asked of him by Red Bull and Verstappen for that matter: “It was really intense, the fight [with Leclerc]. I think the most important thing was not making mistakes, in these conditions, it was so tricky. We have been so unlucky, it’s been a difficult start for us but we deserved this.”
Leclerc continued but the damage was done
The Ferrari driver recovered to finish sixth but he will reflect on his first mistake of a hitherto almost perfect season. Game on!.
Norris was the big winner, the young Briton always potent in adverse conditions again impressed to claim a well deserved third place and affirmed McLaren as probably the best of the rest at this stage of the championship.
George Russell had a strong afternoon, claiming fourth in the Mercedes which compares to teammate Hamilton who spent his afternoon toiling out of the points, and lapped as mentioned above. He was 13th in the dastardly W13…
Russell versus Bottas was intriguing considering their history, the Finn giving it a good go late in the race but had to settle for fifth. Ahead of Leclerc.
Seventh went to Yuki Tsunoda who was in battles all afternoon which brought the best out in the young Japanese driver. AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly was 12th.
Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll finally opened the scoring for Aston Martin, the pair finishing eight and tenth in what was a much better race for the Mercedes powered team.
Splitting the pair was Kevin Magnussen in ninth, the Haas running as high as fifth, the Dane giving a good account of himself once again. Teammate Mick Schumacher spun out all by himself on the opening lap. He was classified 17th.
Schumacher’s mishap also accounted for Fernando Alonso, his father’s great rival, as the spinning Haas’ rear tyre tagged the Alpine sidepod which later disintegrated at high-speed, forcing the French team to park the Spaniard’s car.