This weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola sees the return of the F1 Sprint, after the format was introduced to the sport during 2021. Last year's Grands Prix in Great Britain, Italy and Brazil saw 100-kilometre Sprint races replace a traditional qualifying session in determining the starting grid for Sunday's main event. Essentially serving as shortened versions of a normal race, the three Sprints all threw up their fair share of drama and intrigue, and with the maximum number of World Championship points on offer at Sprint events increased from three to eight this year, there's even more incentive for drivers to fight their way to the front. As we gear up for the return of F1 Sprint action, RacingNews365.com takes a look back at some of the most eye-catching moments from last year's three 100km Saturday dashes.
Hamilton's long grind from behind
After qualifying on pole for Brazil's Sprint race, Hamilton found himself shunted to the back of the Interlagos grid after his Drag Reduction System (DRS) opening slot was adjudged to have been too large. Undaunted, the Briton scythed his way through the field from 20th spot (main photo), crossing the line fifth at the end of the 24-lap Sprint. Though he would drop another five places for Sunday's main event after exceeding his power unit allocation, Hamilton again carved his way through the traffic to take a lead he would not lose on Lap 59 of 71, putting the icing on one of his most famous Grand Prix wins.
Ricciardo lays foundations for historic win
Last year's Italian Grand Prix saw Daniel Ricciardo take a famous win, notching McLaren's first victory since 2012. But the Australian's surprise triumph largely came about because of two lightning starts. Lining up fifth on the grid for Saturday's Sprint, a demon getaway saw Ricciardo up to third by the first corner, a position he would keep until the end of the 18-lap dash. Third became second on the grid for Sunday's race after Sprint winner Valtteri Bottas took an engine penalty, and Ricciardo rocketed away from his front-row position to seize the lead in a Grand Prix he would control from start to finish.
Verstappen jumps Hamilton at Silverstone
The 2021 title battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen truly reached boiling point at the British Grand Prix, as the Dutchman was punted off after the two tangled at Copse on Lap 1. But that moment may never have occurred were it not for the previous day's Sprint race, when Verstappen outdragged pole-sitter Hamilton on the run down to the first corner, and kept his Red Bull ahead of the Mercedes for the remaining 17 laps. The two then resumed their duel in Sunday's main event, but what looked like being a race-long battle ended far too prematurely and set the stage for several more contentious moments between the two drivers in 2021.
Perez and Gasly come to grief
One of the arguments against the introduction of the Sprint events was that they would not generate exciting racing, as drivers would be too concerned about retiring from shortened races and having to start the Grand Prix from the rear of the grid. Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly clearly didn't read that particular script, as both came to grief in 2021 Sprint races. Perez lost control of his Red Bull on Lap 5 at Silverstone and went spinning into the gravel at Chapel, while Gasly's Monza Sprint ended on Lap 1 after contact with Ricciardo. Both drivers were condemned to start their respective Sundays from the back of the grid, with neither scoring championship points – a cautionary tale for drivers looking to take too many risks during the Sprints.
Alonso's Lap 1 show
Fernando Alonso showed in 2021 that he had lost none of his ability during his two-year hiatus from F1, and nowhere was this more evident than during his dynamic opening lap in the Silverstone Sprint. Starting P11, the Spaniard used his new Soft compound tyres to devastating effect, overtaking rivals left, right and centre to lie fifth by the end of Lap 1. Alonso couldn't keep the faster McLarens behind him and wound up seventh, where he would also finish Sunday's main event. But he showed just what can be achieved in a Sprint race with the right combination of ambition, guile and racecraft.