For example, Sergio Perez dropped out in the Bahrain Grand Prix and Max Verstappen was unable to reach the finish line even in two races, purely due to technical problems. This makes it a big challenge for the brand new world champion to extend his title. The Dutchman will therefore love to win in Imola. Verstappen certainly knows how to do that, because last year he also won the Grand Prix of Imola.
The weekend in Italy is only special, because it is not a normal race weekend this time. The Imola Grand Prix means the first sprint weekend of 2022.
What is the sprint weekend like?
For a sprint weekend, the FIA does not have the fixed structure of two free practices on Friday, the third free practice and qualifying on Saturday and the race itself on Sunday. Instead, the first free practice session will be held next Friday, before continuing with qualifying straight away. That qualification is only not for the race on Sunday, but for the sprint race.
That race will be held on Saturday from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM. As the time and name indicate, this will be a shorter race than usual. The result of that race will then determine the starting positions for real racing on Sunday. So it is important for the drivers not to crash during the sprint race.
The latter sometimes resulted in some cautious sprint races last year, in which drivers clearly did not want to take too many risks. And that was not a very big spectacle for the fans. But to change that, the FIA and Liberty Media have now made a number of rule changes for the sprint race concept.
What has changed in the sprint races?
In order to make sprint races interesting for drivers, except for the starting position, a few points were also distributed on Saturday. Last season, this only concerned the top three, the places that are normally occupied by the top teams. As a result, it was not really interesting for the drivers in the midfield to try anything.
That will change in 2022. There are now points to grab for the first eight positions. The number one gets eight points and that goes down to one point for the driver who crosses the line eighth. That also means for Max Verstappen, for example, that he can score important points in the battle for the title, because a maximum of 34 points can be scored during the weekend, instead of 26.
In addition, another change has been made for the sprint races, which has been done more for the critics. Previously it was the case that whoever won the sprint race was officially entered in the books as the one who had achieved ‘pole position’. That is normally correct for the one who sets the fastest time during qualifying. Many fans disagreed, leading the FIA and Liberty Media to return the qualifying winner to the polesitter title. The winner of the sprint race will simply start the Grand Prix from pole position.
The Imola Grand Prix itself will start at 3:00 PM. If you want to follow the race live, you can do that at Viaplay or F1 TV Pro, or you can watch the race for free this way.