Max Verstappen laps Lewis Hamilton and romps to Imola win as Ferrari suffer

Max Verstappen dominated the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, leading the race from start to finish to spoil the party for Ferrari and title rival Charles Leclerc.

It was a perfect race for Red Bull as Perez overtook the championship leader off the line and never looked likely to surrender second place while Verstappen was allowed to stretch out an unassailable lead. So dominant was the Dutchman, he even overtook his 2021 title rival Lewis Hamilton as the seven-time world champion suffered a wretched day at Imola.

Ferrari also suffered a disaster as the thousands of Tifosi who turned out to cheer them on were forced to watch a horror show. Carlos Sainz 's race was over within seconds as he became beached in the gravel after some unfriendly contact, while Leclerc pushed so hard to overtake Perez that he span with just a few laps to go and tumbled down the standings, recovering only to seventh.

After Verstappen's poor start in Saturday's sprint race, it was Leclerc's turn to be sluggish off the line as he slipped back to fourth, Perez and Lando Norris taking advantage. But things were worse for the other Ferrari, as Daniel Ricciardo made contact with Sainz which saw the Spaniard fail to finish for the second race in a row.

The Australian had a double reprieve, as he was able to claw his way out of the gravel and continue his race while the stewards decided no investigation into the contact was necessary. He also took advantage of the safety car to change his damaged tyres to a fresh pair of intermediates with the track still damp in places.

It proved to be a bad day for the Spanish drivers, as only seven laps had passed before a huge chunk of Fernando Alonso 's sidepod came flying off after earlier contact from Mick Schumacher. It caused the two-time world champion to tumble down the field until Alpine decided to cut their losses and retire his car.

As the track dried and the promised showed of rain appeared to have moved away from the track, Ricciardo became the guinea pig as the first to make the switch to slicks. His change was the catalyst for everyone else to follow suit and put on the mediums, with the McLaren man benefitting from being the first as his warmer rubber saw him setting the fastest lap times.

Things were still going very peachy for Red Bull. Leclerc came out of the pits ahead of Perez, but the Mexican wasted little time in getting back in front and began to pull away with the Ferrari star apparently struggling to match him for pace.

The Mercedes-powered drivers were also finding joy in the conditions, with Russell especially going well up in fifth. Both Aston Martins were also up in the points places as the race edged towards the halfway point, while Alex Albon was also steadily rising in his Williams. It was only Hamilton who was struggling to make any headway, marooned down in 14th with little sign that he was going to improve on that situation.

Inexplicably, DRS had still not been activated and it was really hurting Leclerc. Even when Perez put in a slow lap which, in normal circumstances, would have seen him reeled in and passed by the Ferrari hunting him from behind, Leclerc couldn't quite find the power he needed to overtake with his rear wing firmly slammed shut.

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Lap 41 brought the moment Hamilton would have been dreading. He looked up to see the blue flags waving and Verstappen, the man he was going toe-to-toe with throughout the 2021 campaign, moved through to lap the struggling seven-time world champion.

The Briton's frustration was compounded by the trouble he was having moving past Pierre Gasly. DRS had been activated by this point, but Gasly was also within a second of Albon in front of him so Hamilton was getting no speed advantage. And the Frenchman was losing ground to Albon around the rest of the lap, so the Williams man was doing enough to keep both of them behind him.

In the battle for podium places, Leclerc took the risk of changing to soft tyres in the hope of reeling in at least Perez. It might have worked had he not caught a sausage kerb which caused him to spin and make light contact with a tyre wall, which necessitated another visit to the pit lane to fix his front wing and caused him to tumble down the standings.

But his misfortune worked brilliantly for Norris, who moved up to comfortably take third. Russell came under intense pressure from Valtteri Bottas but the Mercedes man managed to hold on to fourth, with both ahead of Leclerc in sixth. The delighted Yuki Tsunoda was joined in the points by Kevin Magnussen and both Aston Martin drivers, as Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll scoring their first points of the year.

Full Emilia Romagna Grand Prix 2022 results

DNF: Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

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