Verstappen wins Leclerc duel to prevail in Imola sprint

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Max Verstappen recovered from a slow start to Saturday's sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to prevail and ensure he will start Sunday's race in first.

The Tifosi at Imola are hoping for a weekend-long celebration amid Ferrari's resurgence, led by Charles Leclerc, in 2022.

He was on course to give them something to cheer in the sprint, getting past pole-sitter Verstappen and, for most of the 21 laps, looking set to claim the maximum eight points.

But Leclerc's front right tyre grained in the final laps as Verstappen closed quickly in an impressive Red Bull, the reigning world champion retaking the lead on the penultimate lap to claim victory.

Leclerc extended his championship lead to 40 points as Mercedes' George Russell finished outside the eight points places on another dismal day for the Silver Arrows, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz moved into second in the drivers' standing as he took fourth behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

An abundance of wheelspin at the start saw Verstappen surrender top spot to Leclerc and he was not close to the Ferrari at a safety car restart following a collision between Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu.

But, as Leclerc's right front faded, Verstappen struck a blow for Red Bull as he got himself within a second at the DRS zone on the start-finish straight and swept around the outside of the Ferrari into the Tamburello chicane.

Perez got himself up from seventh to third while Sainz improved from 10th to fourth after his crash in qualifying, with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo claiming fifth and sixth.

The final points places went to Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas and Haas' Kevin Magnussen, with Russell and Lewis Hamilton non-factors who will start 11th and 14th respectively.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +2.975s
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +4.721s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +17.578s
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) +24.561s
6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +27.740s
7. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +28.133s
8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +30.712s
9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +32.278s
10. Mick Schumacher (Haas) +33.773s

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 78
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 38
3. George Russell (Mercedes) – 37
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 36
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 33

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