Winners and Losers from Emilia Romagna GP qualifying

Finley Crebolder
Max Verstappen waving next to Carlos Sainz. Imola April 2022.

Max Verstappen waving next to Carlos Sainz at an Emilia Romagna Grand Prix press conference. Imola April 2022.

The barrage of rain and red flags helped some and hindered others in qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Here’s who we think were Friday’s big winners and losers…

Winners

Max Verstappen

The Dutchman would not have been too optimistic about taking his first pole position of the season at Imola, but a combination of luck and skill gave him just that.

The wet conditions and the fact red flags stopped Charles Leclerc from trying to improve at the end of Q3 undoubtedly played a big part in him taking P1, but he will not care one bit.

His and his team’s mood will be improved even more by the fact that while luck was on his side, his pace looked good throughout qualifying too and he seemed more comfortable in his car than he has in previous rounds this year – just watch the lap that would ultimately earn him pole, even though he had to lift for yellow flags.

Staying ahead of Leclerc for the two races to come this weekend will be a tall order, but it now looks far less likely that the Ferrari man will simply cruise to victory.

Lando Norris

For the first time this season, a driver not in a Ferrari or Red Bull made it into the top three in qualifying, and it was not one that anybody would have expected, including Lando himself.

The Briton has been rather downbeat about his team’s pace this season, even after the strong result last time out in Australia, but he will surely be feeling better now after spending the entirety of qualifying in Imola well inside the top 10 and taking P3 in Q3.

Whether the McLaren is quick enough for him to stay in the upper end of the points-scoring positions in the races remains to be seen, but there is little doubt the car is already much stronger than at the start of the year and that he is driving as well as ever.

Kevin Magnussen

After a poor weekend for the team in Australia, some were concerned Haas’ strong start to the season was something of a false dawn, but Magnussen showed that is very much not the case on Friday at Imola.

The Dane was probably already happy with his day at the start of Q3 given he was even taking part in it, but it looked as though that would be as good as things got when he went into the gravel early in the session.

However, he not only did excellently to get himself out of it and back onto the track but then went and gave his team their best ever qualifying result with a fantastic lap.

A lot of great fairytales come from Denmark, and Magnussen’s return continues to be one.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel was in need of something to smile about after a difficult start to the 2022 campaign, and he got it with his and his Aston Martin team’s first Q3 appearance of the season.

The German was one of the most impressive drivers throughout qualifying, making no major mistakes and setting decent times early on before red flags could stop him from doing so. His reward for that was a very credible P8.

He will need Lady Luck looking down on him if he wants to stay that high up, but he has undoubtedly made a step in the right direction.

Ross Brawn and co

Ross Brawn and his colleagues are desperate for sprint races to take off, but there was very little excitement for the format’s return this weekend.

To ensure it sticks around, they needed the Saturday race to be a great one. Now, with such a mixed-up grid, it could be.

Losers

Carlos Sainz

Given he was very much second fiddle to Leclerc in the first three rounds of the season, Sainz headed to Imola needing a strong weekend as much as anyone, but it could not have got off to a worse start.

For the second race weekend in a row, the Spaniard qualified far lower than he should have with his machinery and he only had himself to blame this time around as a mistake caused him to crash out in Q2.

The fact it is a sprint weekend means he will have more chances to get back up the order, and he simply has to take them.

Mercedes

Failing to get either car into Q3 for the first time in a decade is bad. The fact such a failure cannot be put down solely to bad luck is even worse.

A red flag at the end of Q2 prevented both drivers from trying to move up into the top 10 but they probably would not have had the pace to do so anyway going by the fact they barely made it out of Q1.

The German team were widely expected to quickly solve their problems and start moving forward after a slow start to the year, but it looks like the opposite is happening.

Esteban Ocon

Ocon would have gone into qualifying confident of securing a top-10 start for the sprint race, but a mistake from his team – sending him out too late – means he will be on the back row of the grid instead.

With the Alpine looking strong, shown by the fact Fernando Alonso qualified in P5, the Frenchman had a big opportunity to pick up points on Saturday and Sunday this weekend and maintain his position in the standings as the top driver not in a Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes.

Now, he will most likely need to deliver two stunning drives to make it into the top 10 at all, while those just behind him in the championship start well inside it.

AlphaTauri

After making a relatively encouraging start to the weekend in FP1, AlphaTauri went a step backwards when it mattered on Friday.

Bringing some updates to what is technically their home race, they were hopeful of getting properly involved in the upper midfield battle at Imola after spending most of the first three rounds on the edges of it.

Instead though, they saw both cars knocked out in Q1 and are now playing catch-up for the rest of the weekend.

Williams

There is not much explanation needed here. One car retired in Q1 before setting a lap, the other could only set a very slow one, and thus they start P18 and P20 in the sprint. Not great.

 

Sprint Qualifying returns at Imola

The first sprint qualifying session of 2022 will take place at Imola this weekend.