Formula 1

Mika Hakkinen: Verstappen & Perez score vital 1-2 finish for Red Bull at Imola

April 25, 2022

Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on the picturesque Imola circuit produced a fascinating race in wet and dry conditions which saw Max Verstappen score an important win for Red Bull, team mate Sergio Perez coming home in second to give the team a dominant 1-2. The result closes the gap between Verstappen and World Championship rival Charles Leclerc who finished 6th position following a spin in his Ferrari.

Leclerc’s late-race spin in damp conditions elevated McLaren’s Lando Norris to third position, the English driver scoring his third successive podium in Italy.

For Mercedes Benz the tough start to the season continued, George Russell salvaging 4th position with a fine drive from 11th on the grid, team mate Lewis Hamilton suffering a disastrous weekend which saw him finish a lowly 13th. Russell had to defend his position from Valterri Bottas, the Finn producing another strong performance for Alfa Romeo.

The Imola weekend saw Formula 1 use its new Sprint Race format for the first time in 2022, with qualifying on Friday and the Sprint Race on Saturday used to determine the starting order for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“This was a really important win for Max,” said Mika Hakkinen. “The two non-finishes in Bahrain and Australia really hurt the start of his season, so the win on Sunday was vital. Red Bull needed to show that they have both the speed and reliability necessary to take the fight to Ferrari. His win in the Sprint Race on Saturday set him up nicely and he took full control of the Grand Prix. That’s the kind of weekend he needs if he is to defend his World Championship title, and with ‘Checo’ Perez finishing second it was a perfect result for the team. Just what they needed.”

Hakkinen feels certain that Charles Leclerc could have finished 2nd, or at least on the podium, until his late race error at the Varianta Alta chicane.

“In wet and dry conditions you have to be so careful because if you push too hard the car can bite you very quickly. Charles has admitted he was pushing and I can understand he was trying to put maximum pressure on Checo for 2nd. He was really lucky to be able to return to the pits and fit a new nose section to his car – he could easily have been forced to retire. To finish 6th was good recovery. Charles still has a big lead in the World Championship, but this error is a reminder that you cannot win every race. Sometimes settling for 2nd or 3rd is the right strategy.”

Norris’s podium finish for McLaren gave Hakkinen good reason to smile, the two times World Champion happy to see his former team enjoy a good result. He was also delighted to see Valtteri Bottas enjoy another strong race for Alfa Romeo.

“Lando Norris continues to perform brilliantly for McLaren and although he was helped into 3rd because of Charles’ spin in the Ferrari he was already performing strongly in 4th and looking very competitive,” said Hakkinen.

“It was another brilliant performance from Valtteri, finishing 7th in the Sprint Race and then 5th in the Grand Prix while pushing George Russell very hard in the final laps. The car is giving him the confidence to push, and he has now scored more points for Alfa Romeo than the team achieved in 2020 and 2021 combined. That’s an amazing result after only four Grands Prix!”

“Mercedes clearly has quite complex problems with their car. It seems amazing to say it, but the World Championships are already looking out of reach. For the first time in 10 years neither Mercedes made it through to Q3 qualifying, which is hard to believe. Clearly the car design is not working in several areas. To see Lewis Hamilton being lapped by Max Verstappen after 41 laps shows what a difficult time he and the team are having. They understand the key problems, but time is running out to find solutions. This is the problem in F1 – the World Championship does not wait for you, the races keep coming and there is so little time to sort major problems out.”