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Charles Leclerc

Leclerc leads Ferrari 1-2 in wet practice at Imola

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc splashed his way to the fastest time in a very wet practice session at the Autodromo Enze e Dino Ferrari.

Leclerc rain Imola
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Ferrari have claimed an emphatic 1-2 in the one and only practice session ahead of qualifying at Imola, with Charles Leclerc making the most of the improving conditions late in the hour to go quickest ahead of Carlos Sainz.

As Imola is hosting the first Sprint Qualifying event of the season, it meant that practice took on even more importance than usual, with the drivers trying to get their set-ups in order ahead of parc ferme conditions coming into effect at the start of qualifying on Friday evening.

With the conditions improving from Wet tyres to allow for Intermediate running in the second half of the session, it resulted in a hugely tumultuous half-hour as the drivers found more and more grip.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez had led the way at the halfway point of the practice session, having set a 1:35.476 on the full Wet tyres, as the drivers found initial confidence on Pirelli's most extreme rubber.

The Mexican's lap was two-tenths clear of what Leclerc and Sainz managed on the same compound, but the times began to tumble in the final 20 minutes as the conditions improved enough to allow for the drivers to switch to the Intermediate tyres.

The lap times tumble in the improving conditions

Sainz then took over at the front as he worked his time down to a 1:30.279, before Leclerc popped in the only sub-1:30 minute lap as the championship leader exploited the Intermediate to post a 1:29.402.

This was enough to keep him at the front until the chequered flag, with Sainz slotting into second and 0.877 seconds down on Leclerc.

Max Verstappen was resigned to third place, almost a full 1.5 seconds down on Leclerc's best time – the Dutch driver encountering traffic on two separate Intermediate laps late in the hour.

Haas had a very strong session, despite a bouncy off-track moment for Kevin Magnussen. The Dane finished in fourth place, three seconds down on the top time, with Mick Schumacher directly behind in fifth place – half a second adrift of his teammate.

Mercedes struggled badly throughout, with George Russell finishing as the lead car with 10th place – almost five seconds down on Leclerc's pace. Lewis Hamilton was 18th, a further two seconds back.

Result Free practice 1 - Emilia Romagna

Pos. Driver Team Time
Results are being loaded...

Plenty of off-track moments

With the drivers struggling in the cold and wet conditions, there were numerous incidents throughout the one-hour session. Leclerc was an early spinner at the Variante Alta, while Lando Norris had to pit after sliding off into the gravel at Rivazza.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll had two off-track moments, while Haas' Kevin Magnussen was another to bounce his way through the gravel at Rivazza.

Leclerc had a second dramatic spin coming out of Tamburello, before going across the grass at Variante Alta, while Verstappen also slid off at Acqua Minerali with 15 minutes to go.

Norris went off the track again as he spun at Acqua Minerali, with the red flags shown with five minutes remaining as he appeared to be stuck in the gravel. However, with the red flags waving, he backed his way out of the gravel and was able to come back to the pits.

Fortunately, there were no serious incidents, with all the cars managing to finish the practice session intact.

This was despite a very late mistake from Valtteri Bottas, which resulted in him almost hitting the barriers at the Acqua Minerali after the chequered flag had shown. While his car ended up beached, he managed to avoid causing any damage to the car.

With the practice session over, the teams will now be forced to lock in their set-ups for the afternoon qualifying session.

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Can fast but fragile Red Bull respond to Leclerc's charge?

RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look back over the Australian Grand Prix, where Ferrari's Charles Leclerc triumphed and Red Bull's Max Verstappen retired.

F1 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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