Formula 1: Max Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in 1-2 Red Bull finish

Max Verstappen cruised to an easy win in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to tie Charles Leclerc with two Formula 1 wins in 2022.

Verstappen started on pole after winning Saturday’s sprint race over Leclerc. He got away quickly on the start in wet conditions and immediately pulled away. Verstappen held the lead as the track dried out over the course of the race and finished ahead of his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez for Red Bull's first 1-2 finish in nearly six years.

Perez got ahead of Leclerc on the start as well and ended up finishing second. Leclerc looked certain for third, but he spun out and hit the wall with less than 10 laps to go in the 63-lap race after hitting a curb in a chicane while chasing Perez. Leclerc was forced to head to the pits with a broken front wing and surrendered third to Lando Norris.

Leclerc ended up finishing sixth, while Mercedes' George Russell was fourth and Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas was fifth. Russell finished nine spots ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton after Hamilton got stuck in a train of cars outside of the top 10.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the qualifying session for Sunday's Emilia Romagna Formula One Grand Prix, at the Dino and Enzo Ferrari racetrack, in Imola, Italy, Friday, April 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Defending Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen is tied with Charles Leclerc with two wins in 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Mercedes again doesn't have the raw pace

Hamilton got lapped by Verstappen 41 laps into the race after he was stuck outside the top 10. He started 15th and had moved his way up to 11th before a slow pit stop and an unsafe release by Esteban Ocon in the pits knocked him back down to 14th.

Hamilton was then unable to get past any of the cars ahead of him with passing so difficult at Imola and F1 officials not keen to put the Drag Reduction System into use on the front straightaway until the race was more than halfway complete. The DRS reluctance was apparently because the track still had damp spots on it as there was no other obvious explanation. Hamilton ended up finishing 13th and out of the points as Ocon was penalized five seconds for his pit infraction.

Imola is a notoriously tough track for F1 cars to pass each other at and that played out again on Sunday even as cars were able to follow each other much more closely than they used to thanks to the 2022 car rules that cut downforce and mandated bigger tires.

Carlos Sainz spins early

Ferrari fans packed the track in the hopes that their favorite team could get its third win of the season and, at the very least, the team could get a double points day. And the hopes for both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz scoring points disappeared right after the start.

Sainz spun on the opening lap and got stuck in a gravel trap. Since Sainz’s car couldn’t get out of the gravel and brought out a safety car, his race was over on the first lap for the second consecutive week. Sainz was out of the Australian Grand Prix on the first lap two weeks ago.

The 1-2 finish for Red Bull and Leclerc's late misstep means the team was able to chip into Ferrari’s lead atop the constructor’s standings. Ferrari has 121 points while Red Bull now has 113 after entering the race with 69. Leclerc still has a 86 to 54 lead over Verstappen in the driver’s championship thanks to Verstappen failing to finish both of the races Leclerc has won this season.