Charles Leclerc spins off in Ferrari disaster at Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as Max Verstappen wins

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Max Verstappen re-inserted himself into the Formula One title fight with a dominant victory as Ferrari and Charles Leclerc slipped up at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

With a downpour hitting Imola in the hours before lights out, the Prancing Horses’ home race of the 2022 season started in inauspicious fashion after Leclerc got away slowly off the line, allowing Sergio Perez and Lando Norris past for an early Red Bull 1-2.

Their woes deepened when Carlos Sainz was taken out by Daniel Ricciardo at Tamburello, the Aussie having been nudged from behind in what was deemed a racing incident by the stewards.

It meant, for the second race in a row and the second time this weekend, Sainz had crashed out - all after signing a new two-year contract with Ferrari.

Leclerc hinted at a fightback on the eighth lap as he got Norris into the first turn, the McLaren not putting up much of a fight. Behind the young Brit was George Russell, who had rocketed up from 11th in the early mayhem and took Kevin Magnussen to go fifth with Lewis Hamilton stuck outside the points.

Dry weather began to prevail and, on lap 19, Perez became the first frontrunner to strap on slick tyres despite predictions of more rain. First appearing to have been undercut by Leclerc, the Mexican’s Mediums were already up to temperature and helped him return to second place by Tamburello.

Verstappen was only stretching out his lead at the front and the conditions meant stewards erred on the side of caution to keep DRS disabled - limiting overtaking.

With 30 laps to go, DRS was given the green light and yet the two Red Bulls were too far up the road for Leclerc, with the field stretched out to such an extent that only Hamilton’s chase of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, for 12th, put it to use.

With it apparent there were no likely routes left to even second place for Leclerc, he pitted for Soft tyres with 13 laps to go and Red Bull responded - pulling Perez and Verstappen in.

At least the fastest lap point was available for the championship leader and yet he slipped up at Variante Alta, leaping over the chicane’s kerb and spinning into the barrier. Still able to continue, he pitted for a new front wing and dropped back to ninth.

As Verstappen soared to the victory by over 16 seconds, Leclerc managed to claw himself back a meagre sixth in another twist in this titanic title battle.

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