Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
We’re three races deep into the enthralling 2022 F1 season and we head to the legendary Imola circuit for the, wait for it, Rolex Gran Premio Del made in Italy E Dell’Emilia-Romagna 2022. This weekend is of course the first sprint race of the season. The Saturday sprint race now provides up to eight points where it previously provided a maximum of three, so it will be interesting to see if that can shake up the order and change the generally negative view that fans hold over the sprint format.
Imola made its return to the F1 calendar after a 14-year hiatus and is now a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar until 2025 and maybe beyond. The track is very well known, of course, for the tragic death of Ayrton Senna back in the 1994 edition of the San Marino Grand Prix. The three-time champion veered off at the Tamburello corner and passed away as a result of his injuries. The track saw numerous changes, with chicanes being implemented at two high speed bends, including the Tamburello corner that took Ayrton Senna’s life. The track boasts 18 corners that make up a breathtaking track, working its way through the Italian countryside. Corners like Tosa and Acque Minerali are some of the most well-known corners in all of motorsport and it’ll be exciting to see how the cars are able to race with the new regulations. So far they have provided us fans with some incredible battling up and down the field in the first three rounds.
The list of drivers who’ve won at Imola contains nine F1 world champions. Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher won the San Marino Grand Prix an amazing seven times; Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, and Damon Hill also won the San Marino Grand Prix on multiple occasions. There are three Imola winners currently on the grid, with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton sharing the glory over the past two seasons, and Fernando Alonso winning the race during its original San Marino period back in 2005. Last season, one of the most notable events during the race was the huge crash between then Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes hopeful George Russell down the straight, which resulted in a red flag. The incident sparked a lot of controversy about relations between the pair and the Mercedes team but in the end, George Russell got the seat over Valtteri Bottas. Bottas himself has been loving life at the Alfa Romeo team who’ve provided him with a brilliant car that’s able to compete for points on a regular basis.
After the first three rounds in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc leads the championship by an astounding 34 points, which is a bigger gap than there ever was throughout the previous season between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. While most would expect Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to be the man behind, his reliability struggles throughout the start of the season have prevented him from being anywhere higher than sixth in the championship. The actual man in second is George Russell, who’s been amazing in his first three races for Mercedes, beating legendary teammate Lewis Hamilton on two occasions and right behind on a third. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz would’ve been second had it not been for his abysmal Australian Grand Prix which saw him beached in the gravel trap on the very first lap. Sergio Perez’s engine held on during the Australian Grand Prix so he sits in fourth, two places ahead of his teammate, who so far has only finished one race, which he finished in first. Lewis Hamilton plugs the gap between the Red Bulls, two points behind Perez and three ahead of Verstappen. The Brit could have been higher had it not been for his lacklustre performance in Jeddah which saw him fail to advance from Q1 and just about scrape tenth in the race.
Esteban Ocon has been very impressive so far this season, currently sitting in seventh in the standings and best of the rest. The Frenchman has remained unaffected by reliability issues and has capitalised on every opportunity to score good points. His teammate, Fernando Alonso, hasn’t had the best start to his season. The Spaniard finished ninth in Bahrain, then broke down whilst running P6 in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Australia was no better, however, with his weekend being riddled with bad luck, finishing dead last, way off of the pack after missing out on a very good quali result due to a hydraulics issue leaving him in the barrier on his Q3 hotlap.
McLaren’s topsy-turvy start to the season looks like it’s getting better. After being off the pace in Bahrain, it looked like the team’s season was set to be a struggle but the papaya squad have netted 24 points in the past two rounds, putting them fourth in the standings, marginally ahead of Alpine who arguably should be ahead of the Brits. Whilst they don’t have the frontrunning pace lots of people expected them to have, they are still in a good position that they can get some great results from. Perhaps the biggest surprises of the season so far have been the performances of Haas and Alfa Romeo. The two teams were ninth and tenth in the standings last year, compared to being sixth and seventh now in 2022. Haas’ re-sign of Kevin Magnussen has looked like a brilliant move from the Americans after Nikita Mazepin was dropped due to his close links with the Russian state. K-Mag finished fifth on his return in Bahrain, and took P9 in Jeddah. His teammate Mick Schumacher has looked a margin off of Kevin so far this year, and remains without a point after three rounds. Haas did, however, seem somewhat off the pace in Australia, which hopefully was just an off day for the team that endured a brutal 2021 season. Alfa’s Valtteri Bottas seems on top of the world so far this season and his teammate’s position of 15th does not fairly reflect his exceptionally consistent start to his debut season.
AlphaTauri haven’t necessarily struggled for pace, but they, like their Red Bull sister team, have struggled with their new Red Bull Powertrain. Pierre Gasly was the first of three Red Bull power units to break down in Bahrain, and Yuki Tsunoda didn’t even make the start line in Jeddah due to an issue with his power unit. The two obvious backmarkers so far this season have easily been Aston Martin and Williams. Neither team has been able to really compete for good results in these new regulations. Williams did, however, sneak a point in Australia thanks to some brilliant tyre management from Alex Albon that saw him make his mandatory pitstop on the 57th lap of 58, finishing in P10 and getting Williams’ first points of the season.
Going into Imola then, it’s almost guaranteed to be a Ferrari-Red Bull duel at the front, although that will obviously depend on whether or not Red Bull can sort out their teething reliability issues. Another spanner in the works is the weather forecast that, all week, has suggested we’ll be having some rain this weekend. Personally, I think Ferrari will take another win this season infront of their adoring home crowd, and I think that if it rains, we’ll see a very surprising result towards the front. That’s it from me then, so goodbye for now and enjoy the weeke