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Verstappen takes pole in incident filled session at Imola

NEWS STORY
22/04/2022

While the rain stopped after FP1, the cold conditions mean the it remains damp, while there is also the threat of further downpours. Indeed, it will come as no surprise that the F2 and F3 sessions held over the break were filled with incidents.

The teams will have been working hard over the break, but the conundrum they face is whether to focus set-up on qualifying, tomorrow's Sprint or Sunday's race.

Ahead of this session, the conditions are different to FP1 which only adds to the engineers headache as they try to decide which way to go.

Air temperature is 12.6s degrees C, while the track temperature is 15.2 degrees. Though it has stopped raining, and there is 'only' a 40 chance of further rain, the session is declared wet.

The lights go green and unlike earlier there is a rush to work with Latifi leading the way. While most are on Inters, including the Mercedes pair, the Alfas are on softs.

"Pretty dry line out here," reports Hamilton.

Soon all bar Alonso and the Ferraris are on track.

As Latifi and Schumacher pit, Hamilton posts 27.214 and Russell 28.096. Bottas splits the Mercedes pair with a 27.468.

With the Alfas having shown no sign of struggling, the rest make the switch to the red-banded rubber.

Stroll goes quickest on softs (23.419), while Verstappen goes second with a 25.515 on the Inters.

Problems for Albon who has flames leaping from his right-rear brake, which subsequently explodes leaving debris on the track.

The session is red-flagged even though he is able to make it back to the pits.

Consequently, Albon will start the Sprint from 20th, as he did the Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The session resumes with 12:06 remaining. Ocon heads the understandably long queue at the end of the pitlane.

As has become the norm, at the end of their out lap the drivers slow in order to create a gap, thereby forming the inevitable jam.

Vettel posts a 23.095 but teammate Stroll responds with a 22.556.

A 21.363 sees Alonso go top as th timing sheet lights up with greens and purples.

Verstappen goes second, ahead of Ricciardo, with Norris crossing the line at 21.232.

Quickest in the first two sectors, Sainz goes top with a 20.319, ahead of teammate Leclerc who posts a 20.590.

Schumacher takes a wild ride over the Variante Alta, as Verstappen splits the Ferraris with a 20.349.

Hamilton goes seventh (21.556) but is demoted when Russell bangs in a 21.547.

Norris goes quickest (20.168) but is almost instantly demoted by Sainz and then Leclerc (19.545).

Latifi, on an out-lap, has spun at Turn 5 as Williams nightmare session continues.

Zhou goes fifth (20.548), as Hamilton slides towards the drop zone.

Bottas improves to ninth (21.114) as Alonso improves to 5th (20.406).

Verstappen and Sainz are trading fastest sectors. The Spaniard goes top with a 19.305 as Magnussen goes third (20.147).

Ricciardo posts 19.980 to go third, only to be demoted when Verstappen stops the clock at 19.295.

Hamilton can only manage 14th (21.226), as Russell goes eleventh (20.887).

Russell goes ninth, and Schumacher tenth.

Vettel goes eighth but is demoted by his Aston Martin teammate.

Hamilton goes 14th (20.470), making the cut by the skin of his teeth. Teammate Russell is 12th.

"How far we off man, it's crazy," says Hamilton.

Quickest is Leclerc, ahead of Verstappen, Sainz, Zhou, Perez, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Norris, Alonso and Stroll.

Q2 gets underway and Sainz is first out, followed by Schumacher, Norris and Vettel.... As Leclerc is told he has "one timed lap before the rain arrives at Turn 4.

All 15 drivers are on track... all shod with softs.

Sainz posts an 18.990 with Norris going second on 19.294.

An 18.793 sees Verstappen go top, as Alonso goes fourth, ahead of Magnussen and Vettel.

Russell can only manage 11th and Hamilton 13th.

Red Flag!

Sainz is off and stuck in the gravel after losing the rear in the second Rivazza.

The clock is stopped with 10:42 remaining, Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll comprise the drop zone... as the rain begins to fall.

The lights go green but there is no immediate rush to work

The clock ticks down but with the rain falling and the dry line disappearing it is clear that there will be no improvements in the time remaining.

With just over two minutes remaining, Leclerc, Alonso, Vettel, Perez and Bottas head out even though all three are now through to Q3. Clearly they want a wet run ahead of the final phase.

Meanwhile, in the Mercedes garage there is an animate conversation between Toto Wolff and Hamilton, the Austrian not looking at all happy.

The session ends. Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Sainz, Norris, Perez, Leclerc, Alonso, Magnussen, Vettel, Ricciardo and Bottas.

We lose Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll... both Mercedes out.

Q3 gets underway and Inters are clearly the order of the day, though it has stopped raining.

Soon all nine drivers are on track, Sainz, of course, sidelined following his earlier off.

"The track is much drier than I thought," reports Leclerc. Meanwhile, Verstappen runs wise at Tamburello.

Magnussen is off at Acque Minerale, and as he struggles to get going again the session is red-flagged.

Replay shows the Dane getting his front-left on the white line... which is all that's needed.

The session resumes with Alonso leading Magnussen and Bottas out on to the soggy Imola track.

Alonso goes quickest in S1, but ruins it all with a mistake in the infamous Acque Minerale.

Norris, Ricciardo and Bottas trade fastest sec tors, as Magnussen posts a 30.035.

Bottas responds with a 30.439 and Norris a 29.968.

A 29.742 sees Ricciardo go top, but Leclerc has a 28.778 up his sleeve and Verstappen a 28.798.

Alonso and Perez have their times deleted for exceeding the track limits at Turn 13.

Magnussen goes fourth with a 29.164.

Verstappen retakes the top spot with a 27.999 as the session is red-flagged after Bottas goes off and hits the barrier on the approach to Rivazza.

With 2:58 remaining, it's: Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Magnussen, Alonso, Ricciardo, Perez, Bottas, Vettel and Sainz.

Verstappen is keen to allay his engineers fears that he lifted-off as soon as the flags appeared. "I did a massive lift when the yellow flags came out," he assures them.

As we await news on when the session will restart, it begins raining again.

Verstappen is at the end of the pitlane with Leclerc tucked right up his exhaust. As the lights go green the Monegasque attempts to pass the Red Bull but without success.

"Try and pass Verstappen if you can," he is told, which was clearly the youngster's intention.

"I have no grip, mate," reports Verstappen.

As Verstappen begins his flaying lap the session is red-flagged again as Norris is off and in the barrier at Acque Minerale.

So, Verstappen will start the Sprint from pole, ahead of Leclerc, Norris, Magnussen, Alonso, Ricciardo, Perez, Bottas, Vettel and Sainz.

Russell will start eleventh, ahead of Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou, Stroll, Tsunoda, Gasly, Latifi, Ocon and Albon.

"I'm happy," says Norris, "I'm top three which is quite a surprise for us.

"There was a lot left but I pushed too hard on the out-lap," he admits. "There was a possibility for us to have a go at Charles, the car was feeling good and I was feeling confident.

"These conditions made a big difference for us today, if it was completely dry, we wouldn't be in third place."

"It was very tricky, especially on the slicks," adds Leclerc. "It was all about putting the laps in and waiting for Q3 to put everything together. P2 is not a disaster, everything to play for tomorrow and we'll give it everything."

"It was tricky out there," says Verstappen, "dry, rain, very slippery. It was hectic, a long qualifying, but at the end I'm very happy to be here.

"It's a great track, I know tomorrow and Sunday will be different in terms of weather conditions but a great start to the weekend."

Check out our Friday gallery from Imola, here.

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