F1 sprint LIVE: Updates as Lewis Hamilton chases Max Verstappen for Emilia Romagna Grand Prix position:

Sainz Jnr handed new Ferrari contract as F1 heads to Imola:

Follow live coverage as Max Verstappen starts Saturday’s sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on pole position after both Mercedes cars failed to make it through to Q3 for the first time in almost 10 years at Imola on Friday evening.

After Carlos Sainz’s crash in Q2 triggered a red flag, the rain began to pour and brought wet conditions for the remainder of the session, leaving both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell eliminated as they opted to not risk a further lap in the rain.

It marked the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2012 that Mercedes failed to have a car finish in the top 10 of qualifying as their early season struggles continued, with Toto Wolff saying his purs issues with ‘porpoising’ were their worst yet this year .

At the other end of the field, Verstappen will start ahead of Charles Leclerc after he held on to provisional pole in a rain-soaked and red flag-hit qualifying session. Verstappen clocked a faster time than Leclerc just as Valtteri Bottas pulled up off the track to trigger the fifth red flag of the session, while Lando Norris took a third surprise.

Follow all the latest from the sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix below:

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Emilia Romagna sprint race:

There are vastly different conditions at the Imola Circuit today. Yesterday was cold, wet and very slippery with the drivers finding it tough to stick to the dry line.

Today it’s a lot drier, the sun is out and conditions seem good for racing. The tactics of the sprint will be interesting. Teams have to decide on the ideal fuel level and whether to try and get through the race on one set of tires without hurting performance.

At Imola the 100km dash means the cars have to run 21 laps – almost a third of a Grand Prix – Sergio Perez spent 18 laps on soft tires in practice earlier today. Is that going to be the gameplan for Red Bull?

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 14:46:

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How does the Sprint work?

Following its success in 2021 Formula One season, the F1 Commission has approved plans to run the F1 sprint format at three Grand Prix weekends this season.

As it was last year, the F1 sprint is a 100km dash with no mandatory pit stops and drivers racing flat-out to the checkered flag.

F1 sprint was introduced last season with the result determining the grid for the weekend’s main event, the Grand Prix on Sunday.

For the 2022 season, the points system has been tweaked, with the top eight drivers scoring points, where previously it was just the top three finishers. It’s also now more lucrative as the driver who finishes P1 will receive eight points, rather than three last year.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 14:43:

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George Russell tops final practice before sprint race in boost for Mercedes:

George Russell provided Mercedes with a timely boost by finishing fastest in final practice ahead of Saturday’s Sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The Silver Arrows failed to get both cars into Q3 in qualifying for the first time in a decade with Russell and team-mate Lewis Hamilton set to line up in 11th and 13th respectively for this afternoon’s 21-lap dash around Imola.

But England’s Russell led the way in the concluding practice session ahead of the Sprint race which determines the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 14:38:

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Emilia Romagna sprint race:

Just under an hour before the sprint gets underway at Imola. Here’s how the starting grid will look for the race:

1. Max Verstappen – Red Bull:

2. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari:

3. Lando Norris – McLaren:

4. Kevin Magnussen – Haas:

5. Fernando Alonso – Alpine:

6. Daniel Ricciardo – McLaren:

7. Sergio Perez – Red Bull:

8. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo:

9. Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin:

10. Carlos Sainz – Ferrari:

11. George Russell – Mercedes:

12. Mick Schumacher – Haas:

13. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes:

14. Guanyu Zhou – Alfa Romeo:

15. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin:

16. Yuki Tsunoda – Alpha Tauri:

17. Pierre Gasly – Alpha Tauri:

18. Nicolas Latifi – Williams:

19. Esteban Ocon – Alpine:

20. Alex Albon – Williams:

Work to do for both Mercedes if they want to finish in the points but the main shootout is looking likely to be between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The start off the line could be crucial.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 14:31:

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Charles Leclerc reminding Red Bull chief of Max Verstappen:

During the 2021 season, there was a generational clash between seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Verstappen. The outcome of the season long battle ended in controversial fashion and Marko now believes there is a change in the guard at the top of Formula One with new drivers fighting for pole.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 14:25:

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‘I thought he was an Arsenal fan?’ Max Verstappen pokes fun at Lewis Hamilton’s role in Chelsea takeover bid:

Max Verstappen has poked fun at rival Lewis Hamilton’s involvement in a Chelsea takeover bid by saying: “I thought he was an Arsenal fan.”

Hamilton, who is gearing up for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, has declared himself as an Arsenal supporter on a number of occasions.

In an interview with the PA news agency, world champion Verstappen said: “I’m a PSV fan and I would never buy Ajax.

“And if I was going to buy a football club I would want to be the full owner and to take the decisions myself, not own just a tiny percentage.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 14:15:

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Max Verstappen explains why Charles Leclerc rivalry feels ‘natural’

The Dutchman competed against Leclerc as teenagers in karting before their battles in Formula One. The pair famously locked horns back in 2019 when at the Austrian Grand Prix, Verstappen stole the Monegasque’s first victory on the final lap.

Verstappen and Leclerc enjoyed clean duels for victory at the first two rounds of the 2022 season, with the Ferrari man coming out on top in Bahrain and the Red Bull driver fighting back in Saudi Arabia.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 14:05:

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Lewis Hamilton struggles again as Ferrari quickest at Imola practice ahead of qualifying:

A fortnight on from a sun-drenched Melbourne, Formula One reconvened at a rain-hit Imola for the fourth round of the new season.

Leclerc, who has won two of the opening three races, holds a commanding 34-point lead at the top of the championship.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 13:50:

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‘How far off are we? This is crazy ‘: Lewis Hamilton reveals qualifying frustration over team radio:

Lewis Hamilton’s struggles at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix continued as both Mercedes cars failed to advance to the final session of qualifying for the first time in almost 10 years at Imola.

Hamilton only managed to scraped to the second session of qualifying, coming in 15th by just 0.004s, and that is where his day ended. The seven-time world champion finished 13th and Mercedes’ problems were compounded as George Russell finished 11th, also failing to make it through to the top-10 shootout.

After Carlos Sainz crashed into the wall to trigger a red flag, both Hamilton and Russell decided not to go back out to the track during Q2 on wet tires. Hamilton had let his frustrations known over the team radio in Q1, saying: “How far off are we, man? This is crazy. ”

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 13:40:

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Problem that caused Max Verstappen retirement in Australia has been fixed, insists Christian Horner:

It was the second time Verstappen did not finish a race this season due to faults with his car. The defending champion is in sixth in the driver standings as a result and the Red Bull star will have to rebuild his season from the Imola race on Sunday.

“We’ve been working with our colleagues at HRC in Japan, and they found the issue and they resolved it,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.

Michael Jones:23 April 2022 13:25:

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