F1 2021 Emilia Romangna GP: Verstappen Dominates Wet Imola Race
Sir Lewis Hamilton claimed a surprise pole position during yesterday’s qualifying session at Imola. Mercedes-Benz won’t have been completely happy though, as Valtteri Bottas started down in P8 and both Red Bulls flanked Sir Hamilton
A spanner in the works for the Formula 1 grid was that a pre-race deluge had ensured we had a wet start to the Grand Prix. The rain persisted lightly in the build-up to the race, which ensured that the whole grid (bar Ocon, Gasly and the Alfa Romeos) started on the intermediate compound tyre.
Slip and slide off the line
The action began before the first lap when Charles Leclerc spun his Ferrari at Aque Minerali on the formation lap. Thankfully for him, he recovered from the gravel trap and regained his P4 grid slot.
Max Verstappen got an incredible launch from P3 on the grid and was challenging Hamilton into the first braking zone. The Dutchman held firm on the inside and made the world champion go wide and over the harsh sausage kerbs.
Hamilton held his P2 despite Sergio Perez’s advances, but damage to his floor and front wing was worrying. Carlos Sainz ran wide and off the circuit but only lost a single place to Lance Stroll. Nicholas Latifi made contact with Nikita Mazepin and the Williams driver was out of the race on Lap 1 of 63.
That brought out the Safety Car, but not before Leclerc incredibly was up to third ahead of Perez. Mick Schumacher lost control of his Haas on the pit exit and lost his front wing in the wall. Schumacher had to continue for an extra lap without a front wing, as his old one blocked the pit exit and pit lane had to be closed.
Perez was also in the stewards’ crosshairs, after he ran off the circuit behind the Safety Car and regained his lost positions.
The Safety Car went in at the end of Lap 5 and Verstappen maintained his lead despite a charge around the outside of Turn 2.
Hamilton was struggling without all the grip from his front wing, but Leclerc couldn’t overtake. Further back, Perez was cut adrift in P4, as the McLarens both overtook Gasly for P5 and 6, as the Frenchman was still on full wets. We also got confirmation of Sergio Perez’s penalty for his illegal overtakes, a ten-second time penalty.
Gasly was dropping like a stone and on Lap 12, George Russell climbed into the top ten, which would mean he and Williams would score a vital point. On Lap 17, McLaren swapped their drivers, with Lando Norris unleashed to chase after Perez.
On Lap 22, Sebastian Vettel, who had started from the pit-lane thanks to brake issues, was the first to pit for dry tyres. Unfortunately though, he was awarded a ten-second stop/go penalty for not having his tyres fitted early enough before the race. His Aston Martin career has been a very rough one so far.
It wasn’t time for dry weather tyres yet, but Hamilton was sensationally catching Verstappen for the lead. Red Bull and Verstappen blinked first on Lap 27, fitting the medium tyres. Hamilton attempted the overcut, but it didn’t work, thanks to a poor pit-stop by the Mercedes mechanics.
The entire field has fitted dry tyres before Lap 30, as Verstappen began to stretch his lead out front. Perez had taken his penalty and was now fifth, but only just over a second behind Norris in fourth.
While lapping traffic at Tosa, Hamilton got all crossed up and ran wide off the circuit. Sir Lewis managed to recover his car, but he lost his front wing and lost a number of position.
Then, a scary crash occurred at the Tamburello chicane. Bottas collided with Russell on the rundown to Turn 2 and both cars spectacularly crashed into the barriers on the outside of the track. The race was stopped on Lap 34, as the debris on-track had to be cleared and damage to the barriers had to be repaired. Both drivers blamed each other, but the important thing is that both survived without serious injury.
A pause of around half an hour ensued, after which, the lapped cars were allowed to unlap themselves.
The top ten at the restart were as follows: VER-LEC-NOR-PER-SAI-RIC-STR-RAI-HAM-TSU
Frantic final laps
At the rolling restart, Verstappen lost the rear end into the Rivassa, but he recovered to the circuit and kept his lead. Max powered down the start/finish straight and caught out Leclerc, allowing Norris to take P2. Yuki Tsunoda was in the points, but spun at the Tamburello chicane and fell to the back of the lead lap cars.
Red Bull were looking at a huge points haul, but Perez spun on Lap 38 and fell back to 14th. Things were looking up for Hamilton too, as he powered past both Kimi Raikkonen and Stroll into P6.
Antonio Giovinazzi was running in P9, but the Alfa Romeo driver had to pit for brake repairs on Lap 40. He re-joined quickly, but dropped to P15.
McLaren had elected to fit Soft tyres to both their cars and that seemed to backfire, as Ricciardo was powerless to stop Hamilton overtaking him for fifth on Lap 42. Perez was attempting to salvage some points, but Vettel was proving to be a tough opponent. Checo went too deep into Turn 2 and bounced over the kerbs, perhaps damaging his car, but not too much, as the Mexican got by on Lap 48.
Hamilton was completing a brilliant comeback drive, as he passed both Ferraris and climbed back onto the podium by Lap 55. Verstappen was long gone, but a P2 for Hamilton would only mean a 1 point deficit in the driver’s championship going into Portugal.
In the end, Verstappen won by over twenty seconds but didn’t take the lead in the driver’s championship as a result. Norris was overtaken by Hamilton, but it was still a joint-best result for the McLaren driver. Ferrari completed a commendable 4-5 with Ricciardo holding on for sixth.
Stroll finished a respectable seventh, while Gasly recovered to eighth. Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line in ninth, but was demoted after being found guilty of illegally restarting the race. That meant that Esteban Ocon (9th) and Fernando Alonso scored Alpine’s first points in Formula 1.
Here is the full provisional classification for the 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix:
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||Leader|
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton (FL)||Mercedes||+22.0|
|7||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+51.7|
|9||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1:24.8|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||+1:26.8|
|13||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1 Lap|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 Lap|
|DNF||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||Gearbox|
|16||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas||+1 Lap|
|17||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+1 lap|
Grid Talk Podcast
For more reaction to the Emilia Romagna GP, the Grid Talk Podcast has you covered! Steph Wentworth hosted Tom Horrox, Karl King and Scott Milnes for Grid Talk’s race review. Both audio and video versions of the show are available below: