Max Verstappen beats Charles Leclerc to win the F1 Sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finishes sixth

Formula One champion Max Verstappen won a sprint for pole position at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Saturday as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc stretched his overall lead to 40 points.

Verstappen had already secured the official pole for the record books in a wet Friday qualifying for the sprint but Saturday’s result made that concrete as well as bagging him eight points.

Leclerc seized the lead at the start, and held it through an initial safety car period, before Verstappen made up for his poor getaway and passed the Monegasque — whose tyres were fading fast — with a late move around the outside.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz moved up to second in the championship standings after racing from 10th place to fourth, behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, in the 100km race over 21 laps at Imola.

Verstappen — who retired in the first two races of the season — is now 45 points behind Leclerc.

The first sprint of the season saw points awarded to the top eight, rather than podium places, as was the case last year.

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McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth, with Valtteri Bottas seventh for Alfa Romeo and Kevin Magnussen banking the final point for Haas after starting in fourth place.

“We were a bit better on our tyres at the end of the race so I could get into DRS [drag reduction system] and we had a good fight into turn two.”

Leclerc said it had been a struggle with the tyre degradation at the end but said he was confident that Ferrari would come back stronger on Sunday in front of their army of red-shirted home “tifosi”.

“It’s only the sprint race and we’ll learn from this to be better tomorrow,” Leclerc said.

Ferarri’s Charles Leclerc led for most of the Sprint race at Imola — although he finished second, he extended his lead in the F1 title race.(Getty Images: Formula 1/Joe Portlock)

Champions Mercedes had an afternoon to forget, with George Russell finishing 11th and losing second place in the standings while seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton was 14th, one place lower than where he started.

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“But we’re fighting to understand the car and improve and progress through the year. That’s all we can hope for right now.”

Magnussen’s Haas teammate, Mick Schumacher, ensured he starts in 10th place, with a chance of securing his first points.

The safety car was brought out on lap two when Alfa Romeo’s Chinese rookie Guanyu Zhou and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly ended up in a tangle.

Zhou crashed out and will start from the pit lane on Sunday while Gasly ended up 17th, ahead of the Williams pair of Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi.

Reuters

Reference-www.abc.net.au

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