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Formula 1: The Chequered Flag race review - Emilia Romagna

25 April 2022 05:35:06 EST
Red Bull maximised their points at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Red Bull's Max Verstappen proved he is up for the title fight after a dominant drive to claim the chequered flag at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Ferrari and Red Bull appear to have adapted better than most to the major technical overhaul in 2022 with Mercedes, as was evident on Sunday, well off the pace.

The Scuderia started the weekend at the top of the Constructors Championship and with Charles Leclerc leading the Drivers Championship, were eager to extend their advantage at their home event.

However, Verstappen, priced at 1.083 to win the Drivers Championship, and Red Bull proved far too strong with the Dutchman and teammate Sergio Perez sealing an impressive one-two.

There's still work to be done for Red Bull, who are 1.12 to seal the Constructors Championship, as they look to close the gap on 7.00 Ferrari but Sunday's performance offers plenty of optimism.

Verstappen maximised weekend

World champion Verstappen sat 46 points shy of Championship leader Leclerc ahead of the weekend when additional points were on offer via the Sprint Race.

Verstappen ensured he made full use of the opportunity and he signed off on Sunday with a clean sweep, winning the Sprint Race, Grand Prix and sealing the fastest lap.

It's been a mixed bag over the opening four weekends for Verstappen. He failed to finish the opener in Bahrain before winning in Saudi Arabia and then was forced to retire in Australia.

But Red Bull will be delighted with how both of their cars stood up in tough, wet conditions at Imola this weekend.

The Dutchman still has work to do in trying to get beyond Leclerc but his exploits in Italy have cut the gap at the top to 27 points.

Meanwhile, Red Bull are just 11 points adrift of leaders Ferrari in the Constructors Championship, thanks to a fine drive from Perez.

The Spaniard, who started third on the grid, made it back-to-back second-place finishes after squeezing past Leclerc by the time they reached the first corner.

Building momentum and staying consistent is the key from here for Red Bull and it'll be interesting to see how they cope at the maiden Miami Grand Prix next time out on 8th May.

Leclerc's title credentials questioned

Leclerc finds himself in unfamiliar territory this term - challenging for the Formula 1 world title.

Many expected the change in regulations would shake things up in 2022 and it certainly hasn't disappointed.

Ferrari came flying out of the traps but many have questioned whether they have the legs or the experience to maintain it.

Sunday's drive from Championship leader Leclerc suggests that he may not. The 24-year-old started second on the grid but had slipped to fourth by the first corner after a slow start.

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He did manage to get beyond Lando Norris but made a costly error when trying to move ahead of Perez into second and ultimately cost his team seven points.

Leclerc lost control at the Variante Alta chicane and ended up in the barrier, which forced him into a late pit for a new front wing and fresh tyres.

The Monegasque couldn't climb any higher than sixth and errors like that could be the difference when all is said and done at the end of the campaign.

Hamilton's woes continue

It's rare to see the podium without Lewis Hamilton in the vicinity but that's been the case for the past three race weekends.

After claiming third in Bahrain, Hamilton has finished 10th, 4th and 13th and the former world champion conceded on Sunday that he's "out of the championship, for sure".

His dismal drive at Imola, which saw him lapped by Verstappen, leaves him sitting seventh in the Drivers Championship and 58 points adrift of Leclerc.

Team boss Toto Wolff admitted Hamilton's car was "undriveable" and offered an apology to the Briton, but that will do little to console a man who is so accustomed to being at the front of the field.

It looks set to be a long season for Mercedes, who have won eight Constructors titles in a row, although George Russell's performances offer some light relief.

The summer arrival was fourth on Sunday and has finished ahead of Hamilton in each of the last three Grands Prix.

Russell worked his way up from 11th to finish just outside of the podium places and Wolff was full of praise for the 24-year-old.

Wolff said: "George really drove well considering the car that he had."

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