Max Verstappen took a superb victory in an action-packed Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that was red-flagged half way through after a a high-speed crash involving Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, which both walked away from unhurt. Lewis Hamilton recovered from a spin at Tosa to finish second, while Lando Norris made it from seventh to third with a terrific drive that earned him the Driver of the Day tag.
For the 99th time in his F1 career, Hamilton started from pole as rain fell at Imola, but it was Verstappen who jumped from third to first with a masterful second-gear launch. Hamilton briefly led again when Verstappen pitted for mediums from intermediates on Lap 27, but the Briton emerged second thanks to his sluggish stop one lap later. On Lap 31, the seven-time champion locked up and beached his car at Tosa, only to rejoin P8.
A terrifying accident followed that as Bottas and Russell came together at Tamburello. Both were thankfully unhurt, but Bottas was apparently winded and Russell furious as another potential points finish slipped away from the Williams driver in a spectacular fashion. Neither faced action from the stewards after a post-race investigation, but both disagreed on who was to blame.
The red flag followed to allow marshals to clear the cars and debris, and the rolling restart saw Verstappen keep his lead, with Hamilton quickly making up ground from P8. A brilliant recovery followed, with the world champion up to fifth by Lap 43, fourth by Lap 50 and third – at the expense of Leclerc – by Lap 55.
FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAN PREMIO DEL MADE IN ITALY E DELL’EMILIA ROMAGNA 2021
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||2:02:34.598||25|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+22.000s||19|
|3 Lando NORRIS McLaren||+23.702s||15|
|4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||+25.579s||12|
|5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari||+27.036s||10|
Victory was to be Verstappen’s, however, and by a margin over 20 seconds at the flag as the action behind did nothing to rattle him. That left Hamilton second, Norris third thanks to a sensational drive from P7, and Leclerc fourth – his podium having slipped away to the superior McLaren of Norris, who had jumped the Ferrari after the red flag restart.
Carlos Sainz finished fifth even after two trips through the gravel, while Daniel Ricciardo took sixth for McLaren having started there.
Lance Stroll was once again rapid in the wet and made it to P7 from P10, ahead of Pierre Gasly whose choice to start on wets didn’t pay off, leaving him as low as 18th on Lap 16 when he bit the bullet and swapped to inters. However, Stroll was given a five-second penalty post-race and finished eighth; Gasly seventh.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen started 16th but made it up to P11 in the wet, taking P9 when Bottas and Russell came together. The Finn was later penalised for an infringement during the Lap 35 rolling start that left Esteban Ocon ninth and Fernando Alonso scoring his first point since his comeback, in 10th.
AS IT HAPPENED
Light winds and cloud cover shadowed the track as the paddock paid tribute to MotoGP legend Fausto Gresini an hour before the race, and that escalated to conditions that had the drivers use a mix of intermediate and medium tyres on the way to the grid.
Thirty minutes before lights out, Fernando Alonso spun his Alpine on inters on his way to the grid, damaging his front wing. Panic then followed at Aston Martin when Lance Stroll’s car sprung a rear-right brake fire as he trundled up to his grid slot. The team changed his and team mate Sebastian Vettel’s brakes in a frantic pre-race repair, and Vettel had to start from the pitlane as a result – and would finish his race in the pits too, when he was forced to retire with a gearbox issue.
They say that when it rains, it pours, and it began to do exactly that as Charles Leclerc spun at Acqua Minerale on the formation lap. He was one of 16 to choose intermediates for the start; with only Haas pair Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly on full wet tyres.
It was pole position #99 – but hopes of win #97 quickly faded for Lewis Hamilton as Max Verstappen instantly jumped him at the start from P3. At Tamburello the two touched wheels and Hamilton thudded over the kerbs, parts of his floor and wing flying off in the process. Verstappen sped away with the Mercedes driver chasing.
Lap 2 brought the first Safety Car of the race as Nicholas Latifi spun, then continued at Acqua Minerale. But as he rejoined, contact with Mazepin tipped him into a spin and sent the Williams hurtling into the wall and out of the race just before Turn 14. Behind the Safety Car, Mazepin’s team mate Mick Schumacher lost his front wing in a spin at the pit exit as drivers struggled on the slippery surface.
Perez had lost P3 to Charles Leclerc just before the Mazepin/Latifi collision and worse was to come for the Mexican. Behind the Safety Car, he went off track and then regained the two places he lost. He was hit with a 10-second penalty for overtaking the Safety Car and took that penalty on Lap 29, ending the race down in 12th.
When the race restarted on Lap 7, Hamilton was right on Verstappen’s tail for the Safety Car restart and attempted a move mirroring the Dutchman’s at the start, but to no avail. Leclerc was right behind them, hoping to capitalise on any mistakes, but despite a slight wobble from Hamilton, the top three remained the same, at least for a good few laps…
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who was 10th on the restart, couldn’t move anywhere at this point in the race. A melee of midfield cars was ahead – Lance Stroll, Sainz, Gasly and Lando Norris – and all were sparring for sixth place. Norris was the one to take it, Gasly’s choice of wet tyres yielding diminishing returns. The AlphaTauri driver was finally switched to inters on Lap 16, emerging in 17th.