The Imola GP delivered in ways not many would have thought as reigning world champion Max Verstappen picked up the win and the point for the fastest lap while Charles Leclerc imploded for the first time this season. The race that was run in both wet and dry conditions produced intriguing action throughout and delivered a spectacle that wasn't as processional as many would have expected before the weekend.
So, in case you missed it, here's what happened!
#1 Max Verstappen puts together a flawless show while Charles Leclerc messes up big time!
The Imola GP weekend was just the kind of weekend that Max Verstappen needed to stage a comeback in the championship. Red Bull was not a runaway favorite at the Imola GP by any means. There were times in FP1 when it appeared that Ferrari held the edge over Red Bull in terms of performance.
What Verstappen did throughout the Imola GP weekend, a weekend that had too much variability in play, was that he did not put a foot wrong. In Q3, when Leclerc messed up his fastest lap, the Dutchman did not. During the sprint when he was chasing down Leclerc, he didn't make a mistake and kept his cool.
To top it all off, in the race, when Leclerc had a slow start, Verstappen didn't. In the end, while Leclerc had the option to take a P3 on the chin and live to fight in the future, he went too aggressive and paid for it. The Dutchman has title fight experience under him, and in the Imola GP, it was the first time it showed up in 2022.
#2 Lewis Hamilton suffers a disastrous Imola GP
It was as if all went wrong for Lewis Hamilton at the Imola GP. He was eliminated in Q2 but worse, he was out-qualified by his young teammate. He made a poor start in the sprint and could not make an impact.
Then in the Imola GP, his teammate finished fifth by making a great start, passing drivers like Kevin Magnussen on the track. Hamilton, however, made a poor start and executed a poor strategy when veterans like Sebastian Vettel had the where-with-all to pit for slicks and try something different. Even worse, he spent the race trying to overtake an AlphaTauri but could not make that happen.
Hamilton is 21 points behind his teammate in the championship and he was somewhat exposed by George Russell today.
#3 Lando Norris secures McLaren's first podium of the season
Lando Norris continued his impressive run as the McLaren driver benefitted from a late-race mistake by Charles Leclerc to pick up the team's first podium of the season. Norris has been relentlessly impressive this season in the way he extracted performance from the car. A podium in the Imola GP was a just reward for the young driver's efforts throughout the season.
#4 Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel show their class
Valtteri Bottas could easily have been on the podium in the Imola GP if not for the poor pitstop that cost him around 8 seconds (he finished around 6 seconds behind Lando Norris). The Alfa Romeo driver has been in stupendous form this season and has completely transformed the team on his own. In the Imola GP, the Finn showed a relentless turn of speed just like in the sprint race, where he picked off drivers one after the other and finished fifth.
In the same vein, Sebastian Vettel put together what could be considered the drive of the day as he dragged his Aston Martin into Q3 during Friday's qualifying, and that ultimately manifested a points-scoring weekend for Aston Martin. On pace, the Aston Martin did not deserve to be in the points. Somewhere down the line, it was the genius of the German that made it happen this weekend.
#5 Alpine suffers another disastrous race
Alpine put together another disastrous weekend as the team's battles with reliability and bad luck left it with nowhere to go. Esteban Ocon's weekend was all but over after a gearbox failure in qualifying. Fernando Alonso suffered from a broken sidepod as a result of Mick Schumacher's spin and ended up retiring from the race.
What was disappointing was the team's lack of urgency with Ocon in the race when it came to pitting him for slicks or when it came to taking care of the 5-second penalty. While teams like McLaren were thinking on their feet by pitting Daniel Ricciardo for hards, Alpine, already serving a 5-second penalty for an unsafe release, left Ocon in the DRS train with no chance of him scoring a point. All in all, a poor outcome for the French team that is starting to lose out in the midfield battle.
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