In a wet first practice of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, F1 title leader Charles Leclerc finished nearly eight-tenths of a second ahead of Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.
At Imola, Ferrari got off to a good start in the first of two home races this season, with Leclerc and Sainz trading fastest times on both the full wet and intermediate tyre compounds.
F1 fans gathered in a drenched paddock at Imola, with the rain pouring down so hard that the FIA F3 and F3 Championship practice sessions were cancelled.
As a result, when FP1 began, the stands were flooded with umbrellas. With only one practice session before qualifying this afternoon, teams and drivers wanted to make the most of the 60 minutes.
Ferrari made a preventative engine change on Carlos Sainz’s F1-75 ahead of the day’s work, while Esteban Ocon of Alpine received his second new power unit.
As the track conditions improved towards the conclusion of the 60-minute session, Leclerc spun three times before eventually taking the lead with a 1m29.402s.
Red Bull’s reigning world champion Max Verstappen finished third, half a second behind the dominant Ferrari combination, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton ended 18th.
Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher of Haas seemed to enjoy the challenging conditions on their route to fourth and fifth place, respectively, despite finishing three seconds behind Leclerc.
The traffic gradually increased despite the steady drizzle, but off-track excursions became the usual as everyone tested the waters.
Sebastian Vettel, driving for Aston Martin, ventured to put on a set of Intermediates, and the German put them to good use, finishing fourth behind Perez, Leclerc, and Sainz.
Lando Norris was second fastest, while Sainz and Leclerc followed suit to go almost three seconds faster than the McLaren driver, a disadvantage clearly caused by the treacherous track conditions.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were outside the top ten as the session neared its final 15 minutes.
For Red Bull and Alpine, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso finished sixth and seventh, respectively, while Sebastian Vettel, Yuki Tsunoda, and George Russell completed the top-10 for Aston Martin, AlphaTauri, and Mercedes.
Hamilton complained of a lack of grip throughout the session as he struggled for pace and eventually finished 18th, a full seven seconds behind Russell.
With the track being wet, several drivers struggled to maintain their vehicles on track in FP1, with Lando Norris’ McLaren beaching in the gravel at Turn 14 resulting in a lengthy red light.
Both McLaren drivers, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, finished P14 and P15 in the tough practice, but it was still better than Hamilton’s poor P17 finish, which didn’t bode well for Mercedes’ qualifying prospects.
Meanwhile, as the session came to a conclusion, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas narrowly avoided hitting the barriers after a massive spin.
With Imola hosting the first sprint event of 2022, the drivers will go straight into qualifying at 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. BST) to establish the grid for the sprint race on Saturday. The grid for Sunday’s grand prix will be set based on the sprint results.
2022 F1 EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE RESULTS (1)
|1||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1m29.402s|
|2||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||1m30.279s|
|3||Max Verstappen||NED||Oracle Red Bull Racing||1m30.867s|
|4||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||1m32.439s|
|5||Mick Schumacher||GER||Haas F1 Team||1m32.988s|
|6||Sergio Perez||MEX||Oracle Bull Racing||1m33.012s|
|7||Fernando Alonso||ESP||BWT Alpine F1 Team||1m33.160s|
|8||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team||1m33.365s|
|9||Yuki Tsunoda||JPN||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1m33.611s|
|10||George Russell||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1m34.262s|
|11||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen||1m34.615s|
|12||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1m35.104s|
|13||Esteban Ocon||FRA||BWT Alpine F1 Team||1m35.420s|
|14||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1m35.502s|
|15||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||1m35.625s|
|16||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team||1m36.033s|
|17||Alexander Albon||THA||Williams Racing||1m36.461s|
|18||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1m36.464s|
|19||Guanyu Zhou||CHN||Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen||1m37.450s|
|20||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1m39.698s|