Verstappen and Red Bull embarrass Ferrari at Imola

Apr 23, 2022, 8:09 PM | Updated: Apr 24, 2022, 9:51 am
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the Emilia Romagna Formula One Gran...

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the Emilia Romagna Formula One Grand Prix, at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari racetrack, in Imola, Italy, Sunday, April 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

IMOLA, Italy (AP) — Formula One champion Max Verstappen dominated Sunday in a Red Bull rout of Ferrari at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, much to the dismay of the sea of red-clad “tifosi.”

Verstappen won from the pole, logged the fastest lap and picked up his second win of the season while leading teammate Sergio Pérez to the first one-two Red Bull finish since Malaysia in 2016.

“Lovely Sunday,” Verstappen radioed his Red Bull team on what was actually a dreary, overcast and misty race day.

But the Dutchman scored maximum points on the weekend — he also won the sprint qualifying race on Saturday — and led Red Bull in its embarrassment of Ferrari in what the Italian scuderia hoped to be its celebratory weekend on home soil.

“It’s always tough to achieve something like that,” Verstappen said of the perfect weekend. “We were on it. You never know with the weather how competitive you are going to be, but I think as a team we did everything well and this one-two is very deserved.”

Lando Norris was third for McLaren.

It was a disastrous race for Ferrari, racing on its home soil and hoping to celebrate a return to F1 dominance. Charles Leclerc came into Sunday as the championship leader with two wins in the first three races and Carlos Sainz Jr. celebrated a two-year contract extension this weekend in Italy.

But Leclerc couldn’t get the jump on Verstappen at the start and never contended. Sainz spun off course on the opening lap to ruin his race, and Leclerc’s bid to salvage the day for Ferrari ended when he spun racing Perez for second.

He ultimately finished sixth.

Leclerc had a 46-point lead in the standings over reigning champion Verstappen at the start of the weekend but Verstappen cut the gap to 27 points and moved into second.

“I was too greedy and I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points,” Leclerc told Sky Sports. “It is a shame, it is seven points that are valuable at the end of the championship for sure and this shouldn’t happen again.”

It’s a timely boost for Red Bull after two DNFs for Verstappen in the first three races. Pérez also failed to finish the season opener.

“The most important thing of today was not making mistakes, because with these conditions it was so tricky out there,” Pérez said. “To get a one-two under these conditions, I think it’s a great result for the team.

“We’ve been so unlucky, the start has been so difficult for us, so I am very pleased to see everyone in my team smiling today.”

Verstappen was passed by Leclerc at the start of the sprint qualifying race on Saturday but come race day, Verstappen got off to a good start. Leclerc, meanwhile, plummeted as he was passed by Pérez and Norris.

Leclerc eventually got up to third and was chasing the Red Bulls when he spun off course.

It rained heavily in the morning but cleared off by the start of the race, and although the track was still wet, it quickly dried and drivers had to change their tires for the new conditions.

Leclerc came off pit road ahead of Pérez, but the Mexican driver had warmer tires and was able to squeeze inside and reclaim second. Leclerc was in still chasing Pérez for second, with nine laps remaining, when he made a rare mistake and went off course. Although he was able to drive off, his Ferrari was damaged and Leclerc had to pit.

The race featured a stirring late battle between Mercedes newcomer George Russell and Valtteri Bottas, the driver he replaced. The two went down to the final lap for fourth position, with Russell holding off the veteran for the spot, having started the race 11th.

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, continued his early struggles and finished 13th. Mercedes head Toto Wolff apologized to Hamilton over the radio for the “undriveable” car that Hamilton was given in Italy.

The seven-time world champion lost the title to Verstappen in last year’s season finale in one of the best championship fights in decades. On Sunday, Hamilton was lapped by Verstappen on lap 39.

___

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Verstappen and Red Bull embarrass Ferrari at Imola