The 4th round of the 2022 Formula 1 season kicks off the European portion of the calendar, with the teams returning to their bases in Europe after the initial 3 fly away races in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Australia. This is usually the time we see teams start to add modifications to their cars to either catch up to the cars in front or stay ahead of the pack.
2022 has to this point been the year of the Prancing Horse, and with the Ferrari’s coming into their home Grand Prix on a high, expect them to be right in the thick of it come Sunday afternoon. It is yet again expected to be a fight between the Ferrari and Red Bull cars, with Championship protagonists Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen expected to fight for the victory.
Returning in season 2022 is the Sprint Races, now referred to as simply ‘Sprints’. The Sprints will be held at 3 races this season (Imola, Red Bull Ring, Interlagos) and are a change up from the usual race weekend. Some changes have been made to the format for season 2022, which you can read about here, with the main change being points awarded from 1st to 8th, making the sprints more interesting for the entire field this year. This weekend will be the first Sprint of the season, and it will be interesting to see how things shake out.
Be sure to check out the site before every Grand Prix during season 2022, as we will have a preview of every Grand Prix, analyse the betting markets, and look to give everyone some winning Formula 1 bets!
Heading into Qualifying and it was expected the Ferrari’s would have the measure of the Red Bull’s, however the upper midfield battle between the Mercedes,’ McLaren’s and Alpine’s looked very close. There were no major surprises through Q1 and Q2, with the classic Noah’s Arc coming through with 5 teams having both drivers through to Q3.
Q3 was truncated by Fernando Alonso crashing midway through the session, and eventually Charles Leclerc managed to grab his second pole position of the season, almost 0.3 ahead of Verstappen. Our man Carlos Sainz had his qualifying ruined by the Alonso crash, and he ended up 9th.
The start of the race was solid enough from both Leclerc and Verstappen on the front row, and they stayed 1-2 heading into turn 1. Lewis Hamilton managed to pass Sergio Perez and Lando Norris to sit in the 3rd place at the end of lap 1. Sainz had a shocking start from 9th, dropping to 14th by the end of lap 1. Two laps later, he spun off the track and could not get out of the gravel trap, retiring from the race. This brought out the VSC, before a full Safety Car was deployed.
Once the race restarted, Leclerc had the pace to easily stay clear of the Red Bulls, with the latter having tyre wear issues from early in the stint. Perez was hampered so badly the Mercedes of Hamilton was all over the back of him until he pitted on lap 21. Lap 23 brought another Safety Car out, after Seb Vettel crashed. This helped George Russell, who pitted under the safety car and rose from 6th the 3rd.
By lap 39, Leclerc had eked out a 6 second gap over Verstappen, and the race was drawing to an inevitable conclusion. Then the Red Bull of Verstappen gave up on him for the second time in 3 races, promoting Perez to 2nd and Russell to 3rd. This triggered a VSC, before racing continued on lap 40. Leclerc cruised to victory from here, winning by over 20 seconds from Perez and Russell.
Leaving Australia, Leclerc holds a 34-point lead over George Russell in 2nd position, with Verstappen all the way back in 6th place, 46 points behind Leclerc. Is it time for Red Bull to panic?
There have been two races at the new Imola racetrack, after it was a staple of the Formula 1 calendar from 1981 to 2006. In 2020, Lewis Hamilton was dominant after starting 2nd on the grid, leading then teammate Valteri Bottas to a Mercedes 1-2. Last year, with variable weather throughout the race, Max Verstappen won a highly entertaining race after Lewis Hamilton had several off-track excursions.
This year looks to be a race between the Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s, but do not be surprised to see the Mercedes a tad closer to the action for this race, with potential updates coming at the first European race of the year.
The Imola track is more suited to a car that is quick through medium speed corners and chicanes, as well as having good acceleration. A car which is better in high downforce configuration would therefore more likely be in its sweet spot at this circuit. It is this reason that the Ferrari must be the favourite, as it has shown over the first three races to be much better suited to low to medium speed, higher downforce tracks than the Red Bull. The Red Bull should look quick in sector 1, but I fully expect through sectors 2 and 3 the Ferrari will pull ahead and be able to lap quicker than the Red Bull’s.
McLaren were genuinely quick at this circuit last year, and with some possible wet weather around I would not be surprised to see Lando Norris in and around the podium. He finished P3 here last year and was on track for a front row start, however his final lap in qualifying was removed for exceeding track limits.
Further down, I expect the haves and the have nots to separate themselves the longer the season goes on, with the early season surprises of Alfa Romeo and Haas being supplanted by the likes of Alpine, McLaren and Alpha Tauri.
It is an important race for Carlos Sainz, a guy we have bet on plenty to start the year. He had a weekend to forget in Australia, and if he doesn’t beat Leclerc soon, he will surely be asked to play a secondary role to Leclerc in the Championship moving forward.
I expect Leclerc to have the pace and be too good, with the Ferrari appearing bullet proof to start the season. Verstappen has only managed to finish 1 of the opening 3 races, and you just cannot back him at this stage given the unreliability issues surrounding the Red Bull. Ferrari will be relying on a better showing from Sainz, and a 1-2 in front of their adoring Tifosi will be a just reward for the amazing start to the season they have had.
It is hard not to bet Leclerc to win again, and that is where the Best Bet will be yet again. Ferrari and Leclerc are riding a wave of confidence, and in front of their adoring home fans I cannot see anything getting in the way of another Leclerc victory.
Verstappen has shown he is happy to get his elbows out in previous Sprints, so we will have a flutter on him to win the Sprint, whilst we also have a small dabble on some other props.
Charles Leclerc Pole Position ($2.25 at Neds) 2 Units
Max Verstappen Sprint Winner ($2.62 at TopSport 1 Unit
Lando Norris Top 6 ($3.00 at Palmerbet) 2 Units
Lewis Hamilton Top 3 ($3.25 at Unibet) 1 Unit
Yuki Tsunoda Top 10 ($3.50 at Unibet) 1 Unit
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