Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Imola, 2022

Verstappen claims sprint race pole as five red flags fly in chaotic qualifying

2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix qualifying

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Max Verstappen will start Saturday’s sprint race from pole position after enduring a chaotic qualifying session at Imola.

The world champion set what turned out to be his quickest time under yellow flags when passing Valtteri Bottas’ stricken Alfa Romeo in the final sector, but clearly backed off while passing the scene of the danger before setting his time.

Championship leader Charles Leclerc will start alongside Verstappen on the front row of the grid for the sprint race, ahead of Lando Norris in third and Kevin Magnussen in fourth.

Carlos Sainz Jnr will start the sprint race no higher than 10th after crashing in Q2, while both Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will start from 11th and 13th, respectively.


The circuit was still damp as qualifying got underway around Imola, with many drivers choosing to play safe by taking to the track on intermediate tyres.

Quickly, it became clear that a true dry line was beginning to form, with Lewis Hamilton choosing to pit and switch onto the soft compound dry tyres. Lance Stroll had already made the transition in the Aston Martin, and used them to set the fastest time of the session, comfortably quicker than those using intermediates.

Alex Albon’s Williams suddenly began smoking with a large fire on his right-rear wheel. The brakes appeared to have ignited on Albon’s car, similar to a problem that had befallen his team mate Nicholas Latifi in the Bahrain pre-season test. A small explosion from the rear of the Williams showered the circuit with debris on the approach to the Variante Alta chicane, leading to the session being stopped for several minutes as the track was cleared.

Alfa Romeo, Imola, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
Once the session restarted, times began to tumble. Carlos Sainz Jnr put Ferrari fastest of all, ahead of team mate Charles Leclerc, before Max Verstappen split the two Ferraris. Mick Schumacher almost lost control of his Haas out of the Variante Alta chicane, while Nicholas Latifi had a half-spin exiting the Villeneuve Chicane.

In the closing minutes, Lewis Hamilton was at risk of elimination in 16th with the track continuing to improve. Hamilton was able to jump up into safety, but as his rivals improved, Hamilton found himself back in the drop zone once more alongside team mate George Russell.

However, both Mercedes drivers managed to set their best times as the chequered flag flew, jumping back into safety at the expense of the two AlphaTauri drivers, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, who were the first drivers eliminated, with Hamilton squeaking through by just 0.004s.

Nicholas Latifi was knocked out in 18th, with Esteban Ocon eliminated in 19th after being sat in the garage in the closing minutes of the session, his team informing him of a braking issue on his Alpine. Albon ended the session 20th and last after his own brake failure in the Williams.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

116Charles LeclercFerrariF1-751’18.79610
21Max VerstappenRed BullRB181’19.2950.49911
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariF1-751’19.3050.50910
424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC421’19.7300.93413
511Sergio PerezRed BullRB181’19.7730.97712
63Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’19.9801.18411
720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-221’20.1471.35111
84Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’20.1681.37210
914Fernando AlonsoAlpine-RenaultA5221’20.1981.40212
1018Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR221’20.3421.54611
115Sebastian VettelAston Martin-MercedesAMR221’20.3641.56812
1263George RussellMercedesW131’20.3831.58713
1377Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC421’20.4191.62313
1447Mick SchumacherHaas-FerrariVF-221’20.4221.62613
1544Lewis HamiltonMercedesW131’20.4701.67412
1622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT031’20.4741.67811
1710Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Red BullAT031’20.7321.93611
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams-MercedesFW441’21.9713.17513
1931Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5221’22.3383.5429
2023Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW44No time3

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As the second session of qualifying began, Sainz was told that “rain is coming”, with Ferrari sending him out urgently to try and secure a soft tyre lap wand take no risks with any potential rain. He clocked a 1’18.9 to set the early benchmark, until it was beaten by Verstappen by almost two tenths.

But as Sainz tried to improve on his first effort, he lost control of his Ferrari coming into the second Rivazza, looping the car around and skidding backwards into the barriers, breaking the left-front wheel off the car and ending his session. The red flag was immediately flown, stopping the session with just under 11 minutes remaining.

As the Ferrari was cleared, rain began to fall in the pit lane as umbrellas began to rise in the grandstands around the circuit. Both Mercedes of Russell and Hamilton were sat in the drop zone at this stage, in 11th and 13th, respectively, while Schumacher, 12th, Zhou Guanyu, 14th, and Lance Stroll in 15th all faced the likely prospect of being unable to improve their times for the remainder of the session.

When the green flag resumed the session, none of the 15 remaining drivers chose to take to the track as the minutes gradually ticked away. In the final minutes, a handful of drivers chose to venture back out on the now wet circuit, seemingly to just gather more data on the intermediate tyres.

Naturally, no one improved for the rest of the session, confirming that those five drivers who had been in the drop zone at the red flag would be doomed to be eliminated from the session. Russell and Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll were therefore knocked out, while Sainz progressed through to Q3 by virtue of his earlier time, despite not taking any further part in qualifying.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Max VerstappenRed BullRB181’18.79314
255Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariF1-751’18.9900.19713
34Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’19.2940.50115
411Sergio PerezRed BullRB181’19.2960.50317
516Charles LeclercFerrariF1-751’19.5840.79114
614Fernando AlonsoAlpine-RenaultA5221’19.5950.80218
720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-221’19.9021.10914
85Sebastian VettelAston Martin-MercedesAMR221’19.9571.16418
93Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’20.0311.23814
1077Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC421’20.1921.39918
1163George RussellMercedesW131’20.7571.96416
1247Mick SchumacherHaas-FerrariVF-221’20.9162.12316
1344Lewis HamiltonMercedesW131’21.1382.34515
1424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC421’21.4342.64116
1518Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR221’28.1199.32614

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The rain had stopped falling as the final qualifying session began, but the damp surface still called for intermediate tyres at a minimum.

Leclerc was the first to start a flying lap, reporting that there was more grip on the track than he had expected. But before he could complete his lap, Magnussen discovered there was less grip at Acque Minerali than he had expected – skidding off the track and into the gravel trap.

The session was stopped as it appeared at first that the Haas was beached. However, Magnussen had kept his engine running and managed to slowly pull his car onto the access road on the perimeter of the gravel trap and drive over the gravel and back onto the circuit.

After a short delay, the session resumed, with Magnussen heading back out onto the circuit behind Fernando Alonso. The Alpine driver almost lost control of his car at Acque Minerali on his first flying lap, but managed to avoid the gravel as Magnussen set the first representative lap time of the session.

Leclerc went quickest of all with Verstappen behind him. Verstappen set a purple first sector, but the yellow flags came out on the run down to Rivazza as Valtteri Bottas pulled off the circuit next to the barriers with an apparent problem on his Alfa Romeo. Verstappen passed the scene, audibly lifting under the yellow flags. But despite backing off, the Red Bull still set the quickest overall lap time, taking provisional pole as the red flags were shown for the fourth time.

After yet another delay, three minutes remained as Q3 restarted for a second time. Verstappen led Leclerc out of the pit lane, with the pair aiming to try and get two timed laps in before time expired. The rain seemed to have increased since the latest red flag, with Verstappen complaining of a lack of grip on his intermediate tyres.

As Verstappen tried to improve on his provisional pole time, Norris spun at Acque Minerali, bouncing into the tyre barrier and causing a fifth red flag of the session, which brought qualifying to an end. That secured Verstappen pole position for Saturday’s sprint race, with Leclerc second on the grid. Despite ending the session with his off, Norris took third position in his McLaren.

Magnussen will join Norris on the second row, with Alonso fifth for Alpine. Ricciardo will start the sprint from sixth, with Sergio Perez seventh. Bottas and Sebastian Vettel will start from eighth and ninth, while Sainz will start no higher than tenth.

Top ten in Q3

11Max VerstappenRed BullRB181’27.99922
216Charles LeclercFerrariF1-751’28.7780.77922
34Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’29.1311.13222
420Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-221’29.1641.16521
514Fernando AlonsoAlpine-RenaultA5221’29.2021.20326
63Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-MercedesMCL361’29.7421.74321
711Sergio PerezRed BullRB181’29.8081.80925
877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC421’30.4392.44023
95Sebastian VettelAston Martin-MercedesAMR221’31.0623.06325
1055Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariF1-75No time13

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2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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43 comments on “Verstappen claims sprint race pole as five red flags fly in chaotic qualifying”

  1. K-Mag is really showing his worth. Loving it!

    1. Yes! Experience and skill always come alive under wet conditions.

      1. By flying off the track in the white Ferrari, blocking the opportunities for other drivers capable of keeping it on the track, getting very lucky not to put it in the wall or bin it?

        Hmmmm, worthy, or as he himself admitted, lucky?

  2. Great pole lap from Verstappen, even lifting, there’s no doubt few can compete with him in wet weather (especially with Lewis and Mercedes struggling to get out of Q1). Sainz was a huge disappointment. Pity we didn’t get a final two laps from LEC and VER.

  3. A very chaotic and unenjoyable Stop-Start Qualifying session.
    That Mercedes car looks terrible on track. Twitchy, bouncing, need 3 preparation laps for a qualy lap, hopeless in the cold rainy conditions.

    1. I really liked the session, rain is always great imo, and unpredictable, just the constant red flags were annoying.

    2. Noframingplease (@)
      22nd April 2022, 22:37

      @amg44 ‘unenjoyable’? Indeed when you are a diehard Lewis fan. For the rest… it was a great qualy

      1. I am not a Lewis fan and I can tell you I had to leave home and kept staying hoping it would finally get underway and we would see a final lap from everyone, not just Verstaopen (or any one else for that matter). It was really an anticlimax at the end.

      2. Quite a few found it kind of anti-climactic that, in Q2 and Q3, the grid became very predictable because, after the red flags in those sessions, the return of the rain meant it became obvious nobody would improve their times and the running order was being set quite early on.

        Equally, there have been those wondering if the marshals were throwing the red flags far too readily, resulting in a very disrupted and piecemeal session where it felt as if the stoppages were often longer than the periods where the cars were running.

        Judging by your posting history, the idea that people who are neither British, Hamilton or Mercedes fans could have also found qualifying unenjoyable seems to be an alien idea to your mind though.

    3. They need to return to allowing running with cars on the side of the track (with exceptions obviously) like they did from 1980-2010s without a single fatality despite much less safer cars and tracks. I am sure I will be crucified for that opinion, but for me, F1 has become overly sanitized.

      Ironically, I find the fan base has become even more opposed to the slightest safety risk than the drivers. I was amazed to see how many fans were acting as if Jeddah was an unreasonable death trap. I don’t want to be there due to MBS. Not because the track is overly dangerous.

      1. Not sure it’s the fans but the officials that are possibly over officiating and or ultra cautious.

        The officials appear to have treated this race as a street circuit race like Jokkah where one off means potential multiple deaths for the field because of the disgraceful choice to run a race on a track squeezed into yet another tourist vista … at a location subject to drone attacks FFS!

        Not certain Albion’s blow-up required a red flag even if he needed to drag it around majority of the track. Perhaps instead race control should have told him to park it at the nearest possible exit point with nearby marshals?

        Bottas got his car into a very safe position so kudos to him.

        Not sure the aqua minerali offs could have been covered with yellows. Maybe double yellows so others do not have to put and might be able to keep feeling the track conditions, manage the tyres etc?

        Best move to keep action running though could be simply to withdraw Latifi’s super licence. He strictly was not the problem in Yabba Dhabi but he’s clearly creating far too many track incidents. Sure the Williams is not a great car but who else is struggling as bad as he is? Almost every session of every weekend he’s unable to drive the car without issues either of his own making our the teams. Could be interesting seeing if a driver with a better junior record could do a better job … like Russell did when outdriving some of the worst Williamsn cars in memory … until this year.

    4. If you didn’t enjoy that, I’m not sure if F1 is really the sport for you. The session had everything. In particular drivers making more of difference than usual thanks to rain but not too much rain. A track where drivers who can keep it on the asphalt are rewarded thanks to gravel traps … that drivers can get out of when they’re wet and without dragging a bunch of gravel on to the track. A stunning location full of undulating, challenging corners.

      Are you sure you didn’t dislike the session simply because Mercedes are atrocious? 7 years of dominance not enough for you? Rest of us were very bored by it so if Mercedes have failed, and it’s more or less no fault but their own, maybe try to find other aspects of the sport you can appreciate?

      Admittedly they probably had too much of a hair trigger on the red flags. Arguably they’re very paranoid these

      1. Personally I found it to feel very dragged out, even though I agree, mostly, with the red flags that were put out. It was just unfortunate that it totally broke the rhythm of the session. It meant the end of q2 and q3 had zero excitement as everything had been decided by the time the cars were allowed back on track and we spent most of those sessions just waiting for the chequered flag for official confirmation.

        In the end there were a few flashes of brilliance, several moments of drivers going beyond their limits, but no heart racing, edge of your seat, finger biting climaxes which is what qualifying usually always delivers. The session got a 4/10 for me, and mercedes performance has nothing to do with that either.

      2. Pancho Villa Lobos
        23rd April 2022, 10:00

        Not enjoyable when the pole goes to the only one allowed to close a lap before the red flag. It seem not fair to me. Neither was to see Norris in a a miracle3rd position going off and preventing other pilots from overtaking him in the ranking. (I mean, obviously he doesn’t do it on purpose but the result is this). in these conditions it would be necessary to insert the possibility of giving the first 5 the possibility of a last fast lap, even if it took 20 minutes to have 1 lap without flags

      3. If you’re talking to me, you’re way off. I hate Mercedes and Toto in particular.

  4. I couldn’t watch today because it’s on a Friday and I can’t catch a replay so I thought I would just look at the results for the first time in years. Safe to say I’m quite annoyed now…

    1. @glynh

      To be fair, it was such a stophstart session with so many aborted laps. Whilst a pretty mixed up grid, I don’t think you missed too much.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      22nd April 2022, 19:06

      @glynh – it was a good one to miss. It’s an interesting grid but it was a really frustrating session to watch. Constant red flags just as it threatened to get interesting.

      1. It was a good one to watch on demand so you could fast forward. I am really glad I missed the live airing.

    3. Pancho Villa Lobos
      23rd April 2022, 10:10

      Actually, a qualifying at a time when fans are working is not exactly what I consider a “good move” by Libery Media.Do I pay to see F1 on sky and can’t see qualifying? I was in a call conference with one earphone and with the other I listened to the live broadcast, I looked like the character of a comedy.

  5. That’s pretty wild!
    Can’t wait to watch this…

  6. Sainz had everything under control until he threw away a good starting position chance.
    Perhaps, he should’ve taken fewer risks, although Adami shares some blame.

  7. Just as with the 3 sprints last year I just really struggle to get as excited about Friday qualifying knowing that it isnt what sets the grid for the GP. For me it just takes a bit of the usual jeapody & tension out of it which in turn for me takes some of the usual excitement away.

    It reminds me a lot of back when there used to be 2 qualifying sessions. The Friday one never had the same excitement to it as they had another go the next day to improve position.

    1. For once we have a mixed up grid and the Sprint is just a get out of jail card for cars out of position. Sainz can probably reach somewhere in the top 10 and can make a top 5 on Sunday which might have been challenging without sprint. Will watch it (probably on replay) but not expecting much from it.

      Regarding red flags commented by many, I actually don’t mind the way they are used currently. There has been a grey area about how to handle or measure the slow down under yellow, and remembering Bianchi, I would rather have a red flag too much than one too little in wet conditions. I haven’t supported all decisions by race control but they have been much more consistent this year.

      1. @jeanrien Sainz starts the sprint in 10th unless they have to replace something that causes a penalty. Could well be 3rd or 4th by the end of the sprint and still in contention for a win on Sunday.

  8. Damp squib Qualy, but that is how you make a circuit, it punishes driver and that what makes the GP exciting and unpredictable, and that is how it should be..

  9. Copied from somewhere else but any driver who causes a red flag should have their time scapped.

    1. Red flags are a bit random and subjective. What if they show it for someone who in the end scrambles back onto the track and a yellow would have sufficed?

    2. @brum55 People should’ve stopped with this ridiculous complaining a little while ago already.

      1. “Ridiculous complaining” over 5 red flags for incidents that took minutes to clear, one of which Magnussen was able to safely restart the car and make their way to the pits. All the while the qualifying session became completely disjointed and greatest drivers of the world weren’t able to do a final run in Q1 or Q2?

        1. antonio de Curtis
          23rd April 2022, 10:15

          I agree with Broom. It’s something that F1 needs to work on and improve on

  10. Boring as hell. No drivers getting in a rhythm due to redflags which race control threw too readily. For Mag they could have done Double waved yellows and for Norris they could have done the same in that sector. Both Ver and Lec were up the road

    1. Yes, even as someone who liked the session, red flags felt too many.

    2. Maybe they should come up with a different system. If the accident is not a big one, or too far for the Marshalls to quickly get the car, they could use VSC to slow everyone down, and potentially stop the clock while VSC is on. I know some people would still go to the pits, but in yesterday’s session the clock would’ve been stopped for less time. And in k-mag’s case it could have started again very quickly.

  11. I missed quali, results though are quite predictable…

    Mercedes nowhere and cream rises to the top.

    Tomorrow them boys can race for P1 start on Sunday, should be fun, if mixed conditions persist..

  12. oh my can any one please tell in what channel can watch formula one in the middle east I have been watching it in Mbc Action now they are not showing it can anyone please tell me in what free to air channel can I watch formula one in the middle east

  13. Can someone please explain to me why no one went back out in Q2 with wets or inters? Is there a rule preventing this unless the race director says it’s ok? Or could it be that they would never match the current lap times with wets or inters?

  14. I know this will automatically be an unpopular opinion, but they need to return to allowing running with cars on the side of the track (with exceptions obviously) like they did from 1980-2010s without a single fatality despite much less safer cars and tracks.

    1. I agree. Now they don’t even wait to see if the car is able to get back on track and just immediately throw the Red Flag.

      At least two cars today got back to the pits but they still throw the Red flag out within seconds.

      If the car is reasonably far away from the oncoming traffic then double waved yellow or VSC is fine.

    2. I agree, the amount of red flags/SC’s is getting ridiculous. If they choose to go down this route wanting to eliminate all risks at all time then all tracks should be altered in order to have a car removed within a minute. Cranes everywhere, guard rails to be opened everywhere etc. Maybe make run off areas and sand traps with a conveyer belt underneath transporting all that gets there to the side.

    3. Davethechicken
      23rd April 2022, 12:56

      It is pretty much Monaco every weekend, a car just needs to stop outside of the pitlane and it is a red flag in qualy or an sc in the race.
      How did we ever get to this being “normal”?
      It is tedious, boring and the results are contrived.

  15. Great quali session, and would make for an interesting race, if only it mattered.
    This way, the sprint race is going to see the cars align by natural pace, and the GP itself will be less unpredictable
    Great lap by VER, but i’d like to see them race a full wet race, to see what the drivers can really do in the rain.
    This way, I can’t be sure if it was a true Senna/MSC wet lap, or just beeing on the fast lap at the right time, when the track was at it’s best.

  16. Well he lifted but he did his personal best while driving past a yellow flag. Shouldn’t that be at least a 3 place grid penalty?

Comments are closed.