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Mercedes driver George Russell was quickest in the second and final practice session at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix ahead of the sprint race later Saturday.
Russell was 0.081 seconds faster than Red Bull driver Sergio Pérez on a warm and sunny day at Imola in contrast to the miserable conditions on Friday.
Championship leader Charles Leclerc, who has won two of the three races this season, was third-fastest in his Ferrari, 0.283 behind Russell and just ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton.
The sprint returns this weekend for the first of three races in 2022. Instead of the usual three practice sessions, there was only one practice followed by qualifying on Friday for Saturday’s sprint. The results set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix and also offer points for the top eight finishers — in a slight change from last year’s debut of the format.
World champion Max Verstappen is on pole position for the 21-lap dash to the finish line later, after besting Leclerc in Friday’s incident-packed qualifying session that saw five red flags.
Verstappen, who was seventh-fastest in the practice session, won the Saudi Arabian GP but that was sandwiched between retirements in Bahrain and Australia. He is already 46 points behind Leclerc, who leads the championship by 34 points over Russell.
Leclerc will also be cheered on by the passionate, red-clad “tifosi” at the track named after the Italian team’s founder and his son: Enzo and Dino Ferrari.
Imola returned to the F1 calendar in 2020 after a 14-year absence, but this is the first time in three editions that fans have been allowed in because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 120,000 tickets have been sold for the weekend.
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