Formula 1 – F1 heads to Italy and the first Sprint of the year
Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix – F1 travels to Italy for the start of the (mostly) European leg of the championship and the first of three Sprint rounds this year.
Tested at three venues last season – Silverstone, Monza and Sao Paulo – the powers that be have decided that sprint qualifying, now billed as Sprint, will once again be a three-round feature.
The three chosen for this season are this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, as well as Austria and the last, like last year, will be in Brazil. Besides the name change, there are a few other differences between the 2021 sprint qualifiers and the 2022 sprint version, namely points and a change in how pole position is recorded.
Whereas in the first year of testing, only the top three earned points at the end of the 100km sprint race – three for P1, two for P2 and one for P3. Now the FIA has more to offer with championship points awarded up to P8, P1 taking eight and P8 with just one point.
While the fastest driver in qualifying would have taken pole position, the official records only mention the driver who starts the race in P1. So the fastest driver in qualifying could have a grid penalty that would set him back a row or more, as happened to Michael Schumacher at the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix, and therefore that result will not be added to its pole total. This will not apply to Sprint weekends this year, however.
For three weekends this season, the driver recorded as having pole position may not be the driver who started the Grand Prix from P1. Whoever finishes qualifying in P1 on Friday will be recorded in the history books as having pole position for the Grand Prix, no matter how the Sprint goes for him or where he actually starts the Grand Prix on Sunday.
So that means Friday will decide pole position and the grid for the Sprint, while Saturday will see the Sprint decide the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Of the three Sprint qualifying rounds in 2021, this is really only the last of the field that is remembered as it featured blistering driving from Lewis Hamilton who raced from P20 to P5 on Saturday and then, after a grid penalty, from P10 to victory on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton’s charge across the pitch for #F1Sprint in Brazil was really something else 🤯
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 19, 2022
The previous two Sprint test weekends were rather overshadowed by events at Sunday races, with Hamilton and Max Verstappen causing controversy after clashes and crashes at the British and Italian Grands Prix.
Heading to Italy this weekend, Charles Leclerc and Ferrari are both leading their respective championships. With Leclerc not having finished below P2 so far this year, he has almost twice the points of second-placed Mercedes’ George Russell, the British driver’s consistency in the season so far, although that the Mercedes car was not as strong as the team had hoped, leaving it a few points ahead of Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari.
Leclerc’s biggest rival on the track has been Verstappen, but with the defending champion struggling with reliability issues on his Red Bull, the only time the Dutchman took the checkered flag this season was for his victory at Jeddah. Verstappen sits sixth in the standings, three points behind last season’s rival Hamilton.
On the team side, Ferrari is again well ahead of Mercedes, with Red Bull ten points behind the German brand. After a superb drive from Alexander Albon in Australia, which saw the Thai driver climb from P20 to P7 on a set of hard tires before having to make his mandatory pit stop at the end of the penultimate lap and which l ‘reduced to P10 at the flag. It gave Albon and Williams their first points of the season and means Aston Martin are the only team without a point to their name heading into round four.
For this weekend, FP1 and Qualifying will run from 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, FP2 and Sprint on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., while the race will start at 2 p.m. on Sunday.