2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix F1 qualifying results, analysis, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Imola

What a difference a few hours make.

In wet testing it was all down to Ferrari, with the red cars nearly 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else. But in qualifying, with the track drying out and the cars spinning around, there is almost nothing to separate the home team from Red Bull Racing.

Max Verstappen took advantage of the confusion to propel Charles Leclerc to pole, setting up a duel for the front row in the first Saturday sprint of the year.

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But Saturday is expected to be dry, and with just an hour of practice under their belt, teams and drivers could see the competition picture completely turned upside down for the short grid run ahead of Sunday’s grand prix.

Here’s what we learned from qualifying for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

VERSTAPPEN TAKES THE POLE AGAINST RUN OF FORM

The Ferrari SF-75 looked like a comfortable favorite in Friday’s only hour of wet testing, but conditions were more variable for qualifying. A dry track combined with frequent squalls of rain made the session difficult for the drivers.

This was especially true when you consider that qualifying was interrupted five times for red flags, and it was ultimately the moment of the last two flags that Max Verstappen eased on pole, having passed the time sheet shortly before until the penultimate flag was thrown, after which more rain came to prevent anyone from lowering the flag on the replay.

Charles Leclerc must have regretted his decision in the third quarter. Drivers were finding that in cold conditions – the track barely creaked at 15C – the tires needed a few laps pushed to warm up, but after setting his bank lap, Leclerc decided to save his rubber for a longer final belay for the pole.

Red flags and renewed rain, however, ended that idea, leaving him unable to improve to second place behind his perceived Championship rival.

But the next challenge now is the dry sprint race. The drivers didn’t tackle this track in the dry this weekend, and the car’s settings had to be locked out on a wet track. Choosing the true competitive order is therefore a difficult decision.

The RB18 is always faster on the straight, which is a potentially significant advantage on a track with only one major passing zone, which is in the front straight. If Verstappen can keep his pole position, even the Ferrari’s car’s superior corner exit traction might not be enough for Leclerc to beat him in the sprint, which doesn’t feature a pit stop strategy to upset. order.

Guglielmo Mangiapane/Pool/AFP)Source: AFP

SAINZ AND PEREZ NEED SPRINT FOR SALVATION

Carlos Sainz re-signed with Ferrari during the week but the Spaniard couldn’t convert that confidence into a qualifying result, crashing out of Q2 in what he described as a startling snap of the car at the end of a lap he wasn’t pushing particularly hard on. He was second at the time and ironically the time to collect his car was long enough for it to rain more meaning no one could improve on his time and he slipped in Q3 to qualify 10th by default.

Things were only marginally better for Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull Racing car. The Mexican was unable to warm his tires before the red flags interrupted Q3, leaving him seventh on the grid.

Both riders will be disappointed to start so far in fast-paced machines on a track that makes overtaking difficult, but they may have picked the right weekend to have to catch up, with the sprint adding another 33% to the total distance of race with which to recover places.

Who could forget, for example, that in the previous sprint event, at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton managed to recover from the back of the grid to win the grand prix thanks to the extra 100 kilometres. Sprint racing to date has needed a focal point, and two cars starting out of position will be key excitement generators.

However, overtaking is much more difficult at Imola than at Interlagos, and this will be especially true if the track is wet in any way to make it dangerous to stray from the racing line. Since the sprint sets the starting grid for the race, the two will have to make the difficult trade-off decision between taking risks on recovery and banking any early gains and consolidating on Sunday.

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images.Source: Getty Images

MERCEDES SINKS DOWN AGAIN

Some new F1 fans would literally have spent their entire lives seeing at least one Mercedes in the top 10 shootouts every weekend. Their worlds must have come crashing down on Friday night.

For the first time in nearly a decade – since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix – the German brand could not secure any drivers in Q3, with George Russell dropping out of 11th ahead of Lewis Hamilton in 13th.

Worse still, nothing per se went wrong, like with Hamilton’s early exit to Saudi Arabia. The Mercedes car, which still struggled to generate stable downforce due to its flexible floor and bouncy chassis, just wasn’t fast enough in the conditions.

“Naturally it’s disappointing,” Hamilton said. “I came here with optimism, everyone is working very hard at the factory and things are just not working out.

“I think we underperformed as a team today. There were things we should have done that we didn’t.

“We will work as hard as possible to progress in the sprint race.

“It’s going to be a tough race, but I hope [Saturday] is better in terms of time, and who knows, maybe we can move on.

“We’re just going to keep working hard. Every weekend is a rescue.

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The bubbling frustration at Mercedes was even captured on television cameras, with Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff appearing to exchange tense words as it became clear their qualifying was coming to a premature end.

The team was perhaps the most affected by the reduction in practice time this weekend, with the settings locked after just an hour of wet racing before qualifying. Russell’s car moved so much during that hour that the floor, designed to fix the problem, broke.

The W13 should be better in the dry, when downforce will be less critical, and it also tends to be more competitive at race pace, but the car is clearly not in a happy place fundamentally, setting up what could be one of the worst weekends in years.

MCLAREN CAPITALIZES ON NEUTRALIZING CONDITIONS

McLaren took advantage of the conditions to bring both cars into Q3. Lando Norris was the quickest to take third, atoning for qualifying here last year when he was also quite good for the second row, but was found to have exceeded the limits of the track and was then dropped further down the peloton.

Daniel Ricciardo made it sixth – decent enough, but the Aussie was disappointed to have his race interrupted by red flags which prevented him from completing his second timed lap, which he says would have brought him a lot closer to Norris .

“On paper it’s pretty good,” he told McLaren.

“I feel a bit hurt because I think almost everyone in front of me did two laps and I only had one because of the red flags. feel like I could be way more advanced, but that’s okay.

He also has a competitive history here, having scored his second podium for Renault at Imola in 2020.

Norris attributed a strong second qualifying session to the weather rather than the car, and at a level that makes sense. The car doesn’t like large braking zones, and reducing speed in the wet effectively reduced bite from the biggest stops around the track. It also struggles to grip in the slow corners, but when the track is as wet and as cold as it was on Friday, every car tends to struggle, bringing everyone down to the level of the MCL36.

But still, on a day when tire temperature was crucial, you wouldn’t expect a car supposedly as deficient in downforce as the McLaren to be the third quickest of the field.

Maybe it’s a sign that Norris’ pessimism about the car’s potential is a bit misplaced and the car is still moving forward, but we’ll have clearer confirmation in the dry on Saturday when the pure pace gets closer. forward in the sprint.

Haas will be the team’s main rival, with Kevin Magnussen taking a sensational fourth place. The Haas machine was generally more stable throughout the year; the Dane is arguably the best place between them to finish top of midfield.