It is once again Sprint weekend this time around, and Max Verstappen took the top step of the podium in Emilia Romagna GP Sprint, who starts at the front in the race. It was again a well fought out battle between the championship leader Charles Leclerc and the defending world champion, with the latter coming out on top on the penultimate lap of the Sprint.
As it happened:
Verstappen had a terrible start to the race with Leclerc capitalising on the former’s fallacy. At the midfield, there were plenty of moves being made all over the place, most notably both Sainz and Perez gaining a chunk of places by turn 4. Another driver who had the best of starts was Daniel Ricciardo, who immediately came off the hook and battled wheel to wheel with the 4th starting Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Taking part in all that action was also the Alpine of Fernando Alonso, trying to make moves onto that no. 3 McLaren while defending heavily against a charging Ferrari of Sainz.
By the end of the first lap, there was an incident between Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu, throwing the Alfa Romeo out of the race. This brought out the safety car, following which the restart went clean enough. Carlos Sainz made a move on his fellow Spaniard Alonso after the Alpine driver went off shape in a scary fashion going out of turn 5. Sainz in his Ferrari took utmost advantage of the pace and made some stunning moves against Ricciardo and Norris.
In the meantime, Sergio Perez also made a spectacular run down over Magnussen, whizzing past the Haas with DRS at a speed difference that made the Ferrari powered car look like from the yesteryear.
A notable observation from all the mid-field battles was how intense the porpoising effect in the Ferrari was prevalent; on-board footages showing Sainz jumping up and down vigorously every time he sped past the main straight.
Then by lap 19, the battle for the front had started to wage, with the no. 1 Red Bull charging up its battery for a late race plunge against the leading Ferrari. Verstappen tried multiple times to get into the DRS range of Leclerc in front, and had in fact successfully closed his gap by the 20th lap to just a mere 0.5s.
Right on the penultimate lap, Verstappen got a brilliant exit out of the last corner, took well use of the DRS against a heavily porpoising Ferrari of Leclerc, and flew past him down into the 1st corner, thereby retaking the place he lost at the start.
Verstappen emerged victorious for the Emilia Romagna GP Sprint, even gained 8 points from it, after a terrible weekend at Australia. He was followed by Leclerc in second, and Perez rounding up the last podium step. The two recovery drives of Perez and Sainz were immense, with the Spaniard finishing 4th. The McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo followed the Ferrari, both of whom say Imola is poised to be a very good weekend for them. Kevin Magnussen starts 8th for the race, while Alonso 9th and Mick Schumacher having his best ever race start position at 10th.
The Emilia Romagna GP will take place on Sunday, at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola, at 6:30pm IST.