Formula 1 betting preview: Imola features the first sprint race of 2022

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Sprint racing returns to Formula 1 this weekend.

Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (9 a.m. ET, ESPN) is the first of three races that will be preceded by a sprint qualifying race on the day before. Saturday’s sprint race at Imola will be 21 laps and the finishing order will decide the starting order for Sunday’s full-length race.

The sprint race format started in 2021 and F1 initially wanted to expand it from three to six races in 2022. Those plans didn’t go anywhere, though there are some points tweaks for the sprint races in 2022. A year ago, the top three sprint finishers received points as first place got three points and third got a point. This season, first place will get eight points as the top eight drivers will receive points in a single-point descending order.

Iola is a fascinating place for a sprint race as it’s been a less-than-thrilling track since its return to the F1 calendar in 2020. Passing has been difficult at the legendary circuit and the increased points and track position incentive for Sunday could lead to some aggressiveness on Saturday. The new F1 cars have also shown to be racier than the previous car iteration. Could we be in for a fun weekend?

Here are a few of the bets that we like heading into the Grand Prix. As always, all odds are from BetMGM.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Charles Leclerc of Monaco in action on the track in his Ferrari during the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on April 10, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)
Charles Leclerc of Monaco is in action on the track in his Ferrari during the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on April 10, 2022 in Melbourne. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

Valtteri Bottas to qualify ahead of Esteban Ocon (+100)

This bet is for Friday’s qualifying session ahead of the sprint race. Bottas has shown great single-lap pace in his Alfa Romeo and the car’s shorter wheelbase could make it quick in bursts this weekend.

Lance Stroll to finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel (+100)

Vettel struggled with his Aston Martin in his first race of the year two weeks ago in Australia. Those struggles may continue for another week as Vettel gets used to this new car design in race conditions.

McLaren to finish ahead of Alpine (+100)

We’re banking on McLaren’s improvement in Australia not being a one-off thing as it looks to be the No. 4 team on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton to finish ahead of Sergio Perez (+120)

This is a bet partially based on Red Bull’s reliability problems so far this season and some more Mercedes improvement.

Charles Leclerc to win Free Practice 1 (+225)

Ferrari and Leclerc have been the team to beat so far in 2022 and they’re going to be amped to post the fastest time in the first session in the team’s home country.

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