Round 4 kicked off the European start of the season in the beautiful region of Emilia-Romagna. We are of course talking about the Imola Grand Prix. What made this round extra special is that it included a sprint race. Or sprint qualifying session, whatever you prefer.
This meant that if you were fastest during qualifying, you started the sprint race from pole position. The sprint race decided the real starting order of the main race. However in the sprint race there were points to gain for the top eight drivers, with 8 for the winner and 1 for the driver finishing in eight place.
The regular qualifying session was a tricky one in wet conditions, but nevertheless we still saw the usual names up front. Once again Jari was the quickest driver ahead of both AlphaTauri drivers, with Chalkers just ahead of LTrocker and the Ferrari’s in 6th and 7th. In between them and the Tauri’s we had Boompje who showed once again he’s very quick over one lap in his second race and Bossmotz, a driver you always expect up front when it rains.
The weather conditions improved a bit for the sprint race, but it still rained. However all drivers chose the intermediate tyres instead of the full wets they used during quali. When the red lights went out it was GChalkers with a replica of Max Verstappen’s mega start in Imola last year and took the lead going into Tamburello. His teammate didn’t have a great start and dropped a few positions. In this five lap race in the rain you’d expect a lot of action, but apart from a few position changes it seemed like everyone was extra careful. The podium stayed the same as it was after the first turn and behind the top three everyone seemed to be happy with the position they had. Chalkers scored the maximum points by winning the sprint race and was now in the best possible starting spot for the race, pole position.
The different format of this race event also meant that all drivers had a free tyre choice for the main race. Nearly everyone chose the softs, only the Ferrari drivers in the top ten made a different choice, just like Michael, Plebmaster, Kiko and Invisible a bit further down the grid.
At the start once again it was Chalkers who kept the lead going into Tamburello, but after that we treated on a fight for the ages. Lap after lap after lap Chalkers and Jari kept changing positions, slipstreaming while using their DRS and ERS on the straight coming out of the last turn. We had a new race leader every lap. They kept pushing each other to higher levels so much that basically no one was able to keep up. Only one driver was able to stay within range, Chalkers teammate LTrocker was just a few seconds away but unable to close the gap. He tried to go for undercut by pitting as first of all drivers in lap 10. The timing seemed right as it put him in free air and with fresh tyres he was bound to make up ground on the leaders if it wasn’t for him pushing a little too hard and spinning off two laps later. He had to pit again and that meant he was dropping to nearly last and his podium hopes were over. When all the drivers who started on the softs had pitted, the two Ferrari drivers were leading on home ground. Shaby lead ahead of Wesley, Michael and Kiko. Jari and Chalkers had so much more pace on their fresh tyres that they cut through the field on their way back to the front with ease. They gained over a second a lap on the race leader. Once they overtook the leader, both Ferrari’s decided it was time to pit for fresh softs, dropping them back to 7th and 10th. But right after this happened it was the second time this season that Bossmotz decided to bring out a late safety car. His crash, just like in Bahrain he shook up the field with his crash as nearly everyone decided to pit for fresh rubber. With the Ferrari’s just having pitted they benefited most from this situation. Shaby got the lead ahead of Jari and Chalkers, with team mate Wesley in fourth. Unlike in Australia we had no race leader crashing out of spinning under the safety car, but it didn’t take long for Shaby to lose the lead to Jari. Not because of a mistake, but Jari was simply too quick today. Chalkers quickly followed and even managed to overtake Jari, but his time penalty gave the win to Jari, who snatched up his second win of the season and created an even bigger lead in the championship, as he now leads with 28 points ahead of Shaby, who had his third podium finish, but is still waiting for his first win.
Next week: France