After waking up to only a few clouds and blue skies, the team arrived at the circuit this morning with plenty of data to gain after a day full of rain yesterday.
Following a positive FP2, during which the cars remained in Parc Ferme conditions, Alex Albon recorded a time good enough for P11 with Nicholas Latifi in P17, with both drivers leading the way through the speed trap.
Soon attention switched to the first F1 Sprint of 2022, and our pair opted for different strategies. Alex in P20 bolted on the soft compound tyres whilst Nicky fitted the yellow-marked mediums.
After making it around the first few corners in one piece, an incident involving Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu brought out the Safety Car with the Chinese driver stranded on the edge of the track.
We were back underway on Lap 5, with Alex getting the jump on Nicky going into the Tamburello chicane.
Gasly, who had managed to keep his Alpha Tauri going after the earlier incident, would pass our pair as the Sprint went into its closing stages.
With no mandatory pit stop required in F1 Sprint, both AA23 and NL6 were managing their tyres before crossing the line to lock in their grid slots for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
There's another chance to push forward on Sunday
“It was a tough day,” Alex explained after his maiden Sprint outing. “We didn’t quite have the pace of the other cars around us so I was having to push harder, which then destroyed the tyres.
“It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. We seem to be struggling slightly more on the softer tyres, so we need to keep working on that.
“We’ve made up a couple of places for the race, so tonight we’ll focus on what we can do in the race and keep pushing.”
Nicky was also in a reflective mood, but looking forward to what lies ahead on Sunday, saying: “It was a tricky afternoon for us. It was good to get the first F1 Sprint event of the year under our belts but we seemed to struggle.
“We tried something different to most of the field but we have to see what we can do to improve our race management and our overall pace for tomorrow.
“It’s a long race so there could be opportunities and hopefully we can have a better end to our weekend.”
Our Head of Vehicle Performance, Dave Robson, also had his say on what was another mixed day for the team, adding: “It was good to see the car in the dry conditions and we were reasonably pleased with what we found in FP2.
“In the Sprint we expected degradation on the Soft tyre but felt that overall, it offered the best opportunity for Alex to progress.
“With most other drivers opting for the same choice, there was less opportunity than we had hoped for, but he was still able to improve his starting position for tomorrow.
“Nicholas chose the Medium compound hoping to gain on people towards the end of the race, but he too suffered with some degradation, which denied him this opportunity.
“The forecast for tomorrow looks mixed and with the Grand Prix offering more strategic options than the Sprint, there is still a lot to unfold in Imola.”
In Formula 2, Logan Sargeant was unable to convert his reverse grid pole into victory, ultimately finishing in P6 whilst his Williams Driver Academy colleague Roy Nissany crossed the finishing line in P4, just +0.5s off of a podium finish.
Zak O’Sullivan’s Formula 3 Sprint adventure ended on Lap 9 after sliding off the circuit at the final corner.