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Verstappen snatches pole from Lecelerc in Imola

Verstappen snatches pole from Lecelerc in Imola

FORMULA ONE: Max Verstappen has taken a surprise pole position ahead of Charles Leclerc in Imola for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

Formula-One
By Michael Lamonato

Saturday 23 April 2022, 10:51AM


Max Verstappen secured pole position yesterday (Apr 22) for today’s sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after outpacing Charles Leclerc by 1.2 seconds in a rain-hit qualifying. Photo: AFP

Max Verstappen secured pole position yesterday (Apr 22) for today’s sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after outpacing Charles Leclerc by 1.2 seconds in a rain-hit qualifying. Photo: AFP

Qualifying was run yesterday (Apr 22) afternoon as part of the sprint weekend format first introduced last season. Verstappen will start today’s 100-kilometre sprint race from pole position, and the result of the 30-minute sprint will decide the grid for tomorrow’s grand prix.

The Dutchman seemed like an unlikely pole-getter after yesterday’s practice suggested Ferrari held a decisive advantage in the wet, but he was able to master the changeable conditions and five red flags to emerge on top of the pike as the clock ticked down to zero.

The last two suspensions made the difference. Verstappen had just put himself fastest when Valtteri Bottas’s Alfa Romeo stopped by the side of the track and forced a red flag with three minutes remaining, but when the pole shootout resumed a spin through the gravel for Lando Norris forced race control to truncate the session.

It came as a relief for Verstappen, for whom it was a first pole of the season after a difficult first three races.

“It was tricky out there with the rain, dry, rain,” he said. “It was hectic.

“Very pleased of course with pole position. I know of course tomorrow and Sunday will be a bit different with weather conditions.

“We’ll try to have a good weekend here.”

Leclerc was disappointed to be unable to translate his car’s pace into grid position, though he gets two opportunities to take back the place from his presumptive title rival thanks to the sprint format.

“It’s life, we’ll learn from it,” he said. “And in the end P2 is not a disaster. Everything to play for tomorrow and after tomorrow, and we’ll give it everything.”

Lando Norris took a shock third for McLaren despite his late spin, backing up his third place in Imola last season in similarly mixed climatic conditions.

“Of course I’m happy, I’m top three, which is quite a surprise for us,” he said. “There was a possibility for us to go forwards even more because the car was feeling good and I was feeling confident.

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“It’s a shame it ended like that, but a good position for tomorrow, so I’m happy.”

Kevin Magnussen was a strong fourth for Haas, bouncing back from a difficult Australian Grand Prix and a trip through the gravel earlier in qualifying that triggered the third of the afternoon’s red flags.

Fernando Alonso qualified fifth for Alpine ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren, both beating Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull Racing machine after the Mexican threw away what should have been his quickest lap to a lock-up.

Bottas was eighth despite his stopped car, while Sebastian Vettel took his Aston Martin to ninth on the grid.

Carlos Sainz qualified 10th despite crashing out of Q2. The Spaniard spun his car backwards entering the second Rivazza, making left-hand contact with the barriers and snapping his front-left suspension, but then the rain returned while the session was suspended for recovery of his stricken machine, preventing anyone else from improving their times.

Sainz was therefore able to sneak into the top-10 shootout, though was unable to set a time, leaving him P10.

George Russell was 11th when the rain hit, and with teammate Lewis Hamilton down in 13th, this weekend is the first time in 186 races and almost 10 years that at least one Mercedes hasn’t featured in the pole shootout.

Mick Schumacher qualified 12th for Haas, and Zhou Guanyu and Lance Stroll were knocked out 14th and 15th respectively.

Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly were knocked out in 16th and 17th for AlphaTauri. The weekend’s other home team, based just 15 kilometres from the circuit, was caught out by the drying track conditions that turned Q1 into a lottery. They beat Nicholas Latifi and Esteban Ocon in 18th and 19th respectively.

Thai driver Alex Albon didn’t set a time after his right-rear brake assembly caught fire partway through his first lap and spectacularly exploded as he tried to make it back to his Williams garage. He’ll start from the back of the grid for the Saturday sprint race.

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