Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won pole position in a nail-biting qualifying session ahead of the 2022 sprint at F1 Imola. After being impeded by a late red flag, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished second, while McLaren’s Lando Norris finished third.
After Leclerc won FP1, the rain stopped only in time for Friday’s qualifying session, and the field was forced to use soft tyres for Q1, which he won by half a second over Verstappen. The prospect of rain increased in Q2, with Verstappen topping the timesheets before Sainz crashed out of P2 – and then the clouds descended.
For the final shootout, intermediates were required, and it was there that Verstappen set the early pace of 1m 27.999s – just as Valtteri Bottas crashed, bringing out the fourth red flag of the afternoon with three minutes left.
Leclerc had one more chance to grab the provisional pole from the reigning champion, but he was left second and 0.799s behind after the red flag. Norris was third for McLaren but skidded off track in the last seconds of Q3, while Kevin Magnussen was fourth for Haas and Fernando Alonso was fifth for Alpine.
Q1 — Leclerc sets a threatening pace, as Zhou shines at F1 Imola.
Despite the heavy and low clouds that hung over F1 Imola, the rain had ceased, and a mix of slicks and intermediates were used early in Q1 at F1 Imola, with Hamilton being one of the few intermediate runners before moving to softs.
With the dry line clear, Lance Stroll established the first Aston Martin benchmark – before the session was red-flagged with 12 minutes remaining, with Albon’s right-rear brake engulfed in flames and leaving a trail of red-hot debris in its wake. He staggered back into the pits, but the Williams was already out of the race.
Hamilton finished 15th, 0.004s ahead of AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda, who did not qualify for Q2. Before learning of the 1.6s gap between himself and P1, Hamilton screamed, How far are we off, buddy, that’s crazy?
Tsunoda’s teammate Gasly finished 17th, putting both AlphaTauri drivers out early at their home track. Following a spin after the red flag, Latifi finished 18th for Williams, ahead of Albon and Alpine driver Ocon, who had to abandon his final attempt due to a suspected gearbox failure.
Q2 – Sainz has a problem before the track is wet at F1 Imola.
“Before the rain comes, you’ll get one timed lap,” Sainz’s engineer remarked over the radio. The stage was set for a frenzied dash to establish a slick-tired benchmark. The Spaniard finished second, 0.197 seconds behind Verstappen, but spun and crashed on the penultimate left-hander.
With 11 minutes remaining, the red flag was raised, and the clouds began to descend, leaving Russell, Schumacher, Hamilton, Zhou, and Stroll in the drop zone. The umbrellas quickly unfolded, effectively sealing the destiny of those drivers.
With another strong time for Alpine, Alonso finished sixth, with Magnussen 0.3s back in P7 for Haas.
In P8 (and alongside Leclerc for a late intermediate run), Vettel secured Aston Martin’s first Q3 appearance of 2022, with Ricciardo and Bottas rounding out the top ten. As a result, the aforementioned quintet, which included both Mercedes, was unable to qualify for Q3.
Q3 – Verstappen grabs the pole from between the red flags F1 Imola.
The rain had stopped but the track was still wet, so the nine remaining drivers put on intermediates for the final phase of qualifying.
Magnussen next brought out a red flag with nine minutes to go, ostensibly beaching his car at Acque Minerale to duplicate Bottas’ FP1 excursion – but he retrieved his Haas from the gravel and continued, much to the delight of his pit team. The rain resumed later in the evening, making for a drizzly finish to Friday.
With five minutes to go, the lap times started to come in, with Leclerc taking the lead with a 1m 28.778s – Verstappen only 0.020s behind – on the first try. Verstappen then improved to a 1m 27.999s soon after Bottas crashed into Turn 16, bringing out red light. Leclerc trailed by 0.779s, but there was still time for one more timed lap.
Verstappen took the lead out of the pits, but it was evident that neither driver would improve given how difficult their out-laps appeared to be. With 40 seconds remaining, Norris fell out, leaving Verstappen in first, Leclerc in second, and Norris in third.