Ferrari had a chance to give the Tifosi reason to rejoice after years of disappointment, but the Reds simply did not rise up to the occasion of racing at Imola.
The 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix should have been the first occasion for Ferrari to celebrate their resurgence with their ever-loyal Tifosi who have never given up on their beloved Formula 1 team despite the disappointments suffered over the last few years.
There were many variables in play during F1’s weekend at Imola, as we were served with the first Sprint Race of the season, which created a challenge for the teams to set their cars up during the one hour of practice; something that was made even more difficult with the new generation of F1 cars that the teams are still getting to grips with.
The rain added to the intrigue of the weekend, and caused some upset to the pecking order, as some teams and drivers handled the changing weather conditions better than others.
Red Bull were faultless on all fronts, team, drivers and the car that did not break down this time. Their dominance was well earned, so there is nothing much more to say about them that can count as one of our Takeaways from the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
But we start with Ferrari.
Ferrari stumble on their own turf
What a disappointment that was! As the podium at Imola did not even feature one Ferrari driver, after the great performances the team delivered in the opening three races of the season.
Armed with a formidable weapon in the form of the F1-75, and ample levels of confidence after the first three races of 2022, one would have expected the Scuderia to have a walk in the park at Imola, but it was far from it.
Now there are many reasons for that, and it all began when the team clearly noticed that Red Bull were blisteringly fast, and most importantly, kinder on their tyres, the latter evident from Saturday’s sprint race.
Red Bull aced qualifying, with Max Verstappen’s banker laps in Q3 good enough to secure pole before the rain returned, something Charles Leclerc failed to do, while Carlos Sainz was off to an early shower after his crash in Q2, but then that is to be expected in the mixed conditions during qualifying.
The graining Leclerc suffered in the Sprint Race was always going to put him on the back foot for the race on Sunday, as Sainz redeemed himself with a strong drive to fourth, but things were about to turn even more ugly.
One can argue that Sainz’s crash on the opening lap of the race was Daniel Ricciardo’s fault (more about the Aussie later) but the Spaniard’s sluggish start played a role in him being in that track position. Overall Sainz was not on form, despite the boost he received from his contract extension.
However, nothing can explain or justify Leclerc’s “I am stupid” moment as he was racing hard to chase Sergio Perez, later on during the grand prix after Ferrari justifiably tried to do something different, as the Monegasque was clearly unable to catch the Red Bulls.
Leclerc seemed to be composed from the start of this season, racing smart and taking calculated risks, which was an encouraging sign that his “moments” have become a thing of the past, something essential for a Title fight.
Was it the pressure of delivering in front of the Tifosi that got into him?
Well, he denied that but it most probably was, plus he was overdriving a car that wasn’t the fastest that weekend, something he used to do in the past, but regardless the final outcome was painful for driver, team.
Ferrari wanted to make a clear statement at Imola, with Chairman John Elkan attending the race along with CEO Benedetto Vigna, and their test driver Marc Gene was even lined up for the post-race interviews.
It must have felt awkward when Marc interviewed no drivers in Red.
Lando Norris stars, Daniel Ricciardo tests tyres
Lando Norris must love Imola, as he scored his second podium finish there, with a bit of luck of course, but nevertheless, and given how his car stacks up against the Ferraris and the Red Bulls, the Briton’s performance was faultless in tricky conditions.
Let’s not forget that he did qualify third on Friday and was best of the rest at the end of the Sprint Race behind the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers, so he placed himself in the best position to capitalize on others’ misfortunes.
He had a decent start to Sunday’s race after which he drove superbly to take third, but no harm in thanking his teammate Daniel Ricciardo for wiping out Sainz at the start.
As for Ricciardo, it seems he is yet to raise his game to the level of his teammate, who has out-qualified him in all races this season which – even keeping in mind he missed Bahrain testing due to Covid, and took part in the first race having recently recovered from it – does not bode well for the Honey Badger’s second campaign with McLaren.
He was gracious to take the blame on his first lap incident with Sainz, but it was unwarranted, and destroyed the Spaniard’s race – who needed a strong race by the way – and relegated himself into a tyre-tester-role, trying to identify the best moment to switch onto the slicks.
The whole grid can thank him for that… But seriously, Ricciardo needs to start performing.
Everybody needs to calm down regarding Mercedes
I am the first to admit that it feels good that Mercedes’ stronghold on F1 since the start of the Turbo-hybrid era in 2014 is finally over, but we need to take things slow when looking into their situation, team and drivers, as they endure one of their worst starts to an F1 campaign in their history.
Everyone is speculating about Lewis Hamilton’s heated discussion with Toto Wolff after the former failed to progress beyond Q2 in qualifying, also suggesting the Briton might be throwing in the towel already, while comparisons are being made about his performance compared to George Russell.
But the fact remains that it is all too soon to write off Mercedes or Hamilton, and here I mean the medium to long term.
The World Champions should most probably disregard this season, since it will be very difficult for them to recover from their slump and launch a Title fight. However, they can learn and bide their time for another shot next year.
As for Hamilton, I feel he will stick around to have a genuine crack at that elusive eighth Title, despite all the challenges he is currently encountering.
I have to admit that being outperformed by his teammate does not look good, and Verstappen lapping him at Imola must have hurt, but let’s not blow things out of proportion here, as it happens to the best drivers, and in Hamilton’s case, it hasn’t been happening long enough to cause worry, it’s only four races for crying out loud.
Quick hits from Imola
- I still cannot understand what they see in these Sprint Races. The one at Imola was a snooze fest had it not been for Verstappen’s late attack on Leclerc. But Ross Brawn wants six of those next year…
- Sebastian Vettel bounced back from Melbourne in style, and delivered a strong performance, showing the worth of his experience to Aston Martin, not that they didn’t know already. It was a decent weekend for the team as both Vettel and Lance Stroll score points for the team, but given the unusual circumstances that played a role in that, means the Aston Martin are far away from being out of the woods.
- Mick Schumacher’s Italian weekend was fine up until the race on Sunday when he messed up on a day when Kevin Magnussen scored points for Haas yet again. I am starting to doubt that Mick is the real deal, I never imagined he will be close to his great father’s level, but I am now doubting he has what it takes to be in a Ferrari in the future.
- A great weekend by Yuki Tsunoda, getting the measure of his impressive teammate all weekend long.