Formula 1

Verstappen Victorious with Masterclass at incident-laden Imola

6 Mins read
IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 17: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 17, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202104170187 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen took an impressive victory at an action packed race at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as the FIA Formula 1 World Championship headed to Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola.

This second race of the season had the promise to be a cracker and boy was it, with a sudden downpour hitting the track 25 minutes before the race, teams were in a massive rush to get their cars ready.

Both Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team cars burned out their brakes on the way to the grid, with Sebastian Vettel’s crew unable to get his car ready for the start, meaning he had to start from the pits. Charles Leclerc had a spin on the formation lap at Aqua Minerale, managing to keep himself away from beaching it in the sand

Max Verstappen started on the Intermediate tyres, and pulled away from the grid in second gear with an almighty start, passing his teammate, and Lewis Hamilton for first position; Heading in to the first corner there was a clash with Hamilton on the first corner and ending up with Brit running over the kerbs and damaging his front right endplate and his floor in the process, damage that would plague him for the remainder of the race.

Nicolas Latifi spun at the same spot as Leclerc had earlier and ended up not seeing Nikita Mazepin in his wing mirrors, rejoining and hitting the Russian, then spinning into the wall and causing a Safety Car.

Under the safety car there were a few incidents, with Mick Schumacher trying to warm up his tyres on the pit straight and losing the car, crashing into the wall and forcing the pit lane to be closed because of debris at the exit, meaning he could not pit for 2 more laps.

Credit: Mark Thompson / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Pérez lost out Leclerc before the safety car, and then during it put his car out onto the gravel at one point, lost two positions and then re-took them, against the rules, causing him to receive a 10 second time penalty on lap 13.

Esteban Ocon pitted early during the safety car for Intermediate tyres as the full wet compound were not driving well, a choice which kept him in the midfield race, while Pierre Gasly pitted late and got caught in with the backmarkers. At the restart on lap 6, Lewis went for Verstappen on the first corner but was not able to get near.

Carlos Sainz Jr. had a lot of issues in seventh, ending up in the gravel on several occasions as he locked the brakes up entering corners with too much speed; he was very lucky to keep position and not hit the wall.

Valtteri Bottas had a very quiet start, losing a position from the start and still being ninth on lap 17. By lap 21 Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Principal Toto Wolff had even gotten onto his radio to shout encouragement to him, but it seemed to have no effect. Verstappen got out to a 5.500 second lead on Lewis Hamilton in second place by Lap 20.

On lap 20, teams started discussing making the switch onto dry tyres, but no team wanted to be the first one to make the risky move. Vettel was the first to go for slicks on lap 22, with the team having nothing to lose. Just as he pulled out of the pits, the German was hit with a 10 second stop/go penalty, as his car’s wheels had not fitted by the starting period of the race. He took the penalty on lap 24, and it seemed that it was too early for slicks, as in his initial laps around the circuit he gained nothing on lap times. On lap 26 at Tamburrello Sainz passed Daniel Ricciardo for sixth place.

Verstappen pitted from the lead on lap 28 for Mediums tyres, Mercedes didn’t pit Lewis as they looked for the overcut. Hamilton pushed hard before entering the pits at the end of the lap, but the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN of Antonio Giovinazzi was in the pitlane and had to pass by the Mercedes mechanics before they could let Hamilton exit, this handed Verstappen the lead. Pérez served his penalty but received a new steering wheel from his mechanics during the time, which was against the rules.

Credit: LAT Images

By lap 30 all cars had pitted for slick tyres, but at this point is started to go downhill for Mercedes. Verstappen lapped Bottas on lap 31, before Hamilton ended up in the gravel trap as he tried to avoid George Russell, breaking his front wing in the process.

On Lap 33, while trying to pass Bottas, Russell got onto the grass and lost traction, forcing the Williams to swerve to the left, crashing into Bottas’ side and driving them both into the nearby wall. Both drivers blamed each other for the crash, with Russell rushing over to argue with Bottas, slapping his helmet as the Finn stuck his middle finger op. A huge shunt that shows the integrity of modern Formula 1 cars, as both drivers are lucky to be safe.

Hamilton pitted under the safety car and gets lucky, coming out of the pits in ninth place, a lap down from Verstappen, thankfully for the reigning champion the race was stopped as stewards cleared the debris of the Bottas/Russell incident.

The race restarted around 25 minutes later, with the grid for the restart as follows:

1Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing
2Charles LeclercScuderia Ferrari
3Lando NorrisMcLaren F1 Team
4Sergio PérezRed Bull Racing
5Carlos Sainz Jr.Scuderia Ferrari
6Daniel RicciardoMcLaren F1 Team
7Lance StrollAston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team
8Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN
9Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
10Yuki TsunodaScuderia AlphaTauri Honda
11Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN
12Fernando AlonsoAlpine F1 Team
13Esteban OconAlpine F1 Team
14Pierre GaslyScuderia AlphaTauri Honda
15Sebastian VettelAston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team
16Mick SchumacherUralkali Haas F1 Team
17Nikita MazepinUralkali Haas F1 Team

A rolling restart was set, with everyone now on fresh slick tires; Verstappen was lucky on the restart as the safety car pulled into the pits before the end of lap, after avoiding a spin on the final corner he managed to keep position. Norris passed Leclerc into turn one with the help of the soft tyres, which he and his teammate started on while the rest of the top ten started on mediums. Yuki Tsunoda spun off into the gravel, a disappointing moment for the Japanese driver who had gained ten places from the original start. Hamilton managed to pick up a position from Kimi Raikkonen who spun off on the safety car-led restart lap. Peréz lost out as he headed in to Villeneuve to fast, spinning into the gravel, going from fourth to fourteenth.

On Lap 39, Hamilton took sixth place at Tamburrello with the help of DRS from Lance Stroll, who seemed to lose synchronisation on his gear shifts, affecting his power on the straights. Two laps later Hamilton was pushing hard for Ricciardo, passing him on the next lap for fifth place at the same spot he overtook Stroll. Giovinazzi pulled into the pits for a brake adjustment as his rear brakes were overheating.

Lap 46 saw a return to the battle of the giants of Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes, as Hamilton closed in on Leclerc and Sainz. Despite closing the gap, Hamilton was struggling to make an impact on the two Ferrari drivers, much to the joy of the Tifosi.  Pérez attempted to pass Vettel at Tamburrello, but ended up running over the kerbs, surprisingly not damaging the car in the process.

Credit: McLaren

Norris’ soft tyres began to fade with fifteen laps left of the race as he headed up a train in front of the two Ferrari’s and the singular Mercedes. Hamilton tried to pass Sainz, but couldn’t make it stick as the Spaniard fought back, the following lap he would make the pass with the use of some extra battery power. At this point Leclerc was within DRS range of Norris which negated the power of the Mercedes, coupled with the DRS, and made an easy pass very hard for Hamilton.

With ten laps left, Verstappen was fifteen seconds clear of the pack behind, a clear lead for the Dutchman who was able to take things easy in case of a late Safety Car. Hamilton was close to the two cars in front of him but wasn’t able to make up enough ground to pass.

On lap 55, Hamilton finally managed to pass the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc as he lost his DRS from Norris ahead of him, next up was his fellow Brit, but was not ready to give up the position, battlling hard. It would take five laps for Hamilton to make an impact, with Norris’ tyres nearly gone, and with the help of DRS, he managed to claim second place.

On lap 61, Nikita Mazepin continued his struggles as he spun at Aqua Minerale, followed by Sebastian Vettel retiring his Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team car due to gearbox Issues.

Finally on lap 63, Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in first place, making it relatively easy in the end with a large gap behind. Lewis Hamilton recorded the fastest lap on his way to second place and Lando Norris picked up the driver of the day award along with the final podium position.

133Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull Racing Honda632:02:34.59825
244Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team63+22.000s19
34Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team63+23.702s15
416Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow63+25.579s12
555Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPScuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow63+27.036s10
63Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team63+51.220s8
710Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri Honda63+52.818s6
818Lance StrollCANAston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team63+56.909s4
931Esteban OconFRAAlpine F1 Team63+65.704s2
1014Fernando AlonsoESPAlpine F1 Team63+66.561s1
1111Sergio PérezMEXRed Bull Racing Honda63+67.151s0
1222Yuki TsunodaJAPScuderia AlphaTauri Honda63+73.184s0
137Kimi RäikkönenFINAlfa Romeo Racing Orlen63+94.773s0
1499Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing Orlen62+1 lap0
155Sebastian VettelGERAston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team61DNF0
1647Mick SchumacherGERUralkali Haas F1 Team61+2 laps0
179Nikita MazepinRUSUralkali Haas F1 Team61+2 laps0
1877Valtteri BottasFINMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team30DNF0
1963George RussellGBRWilliams Racing30DNF0
206Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing0DNF0
Michael Tuohy
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About author
Michael is a young writer from Drogheda in Ireland. He has watched Formula 1 since 2010 and fell in love with Formula 1 after the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011. He previously hosted a little known podcast called "The Commentary Box" for 4 years on Belfield FM. He is a newcomer to sports writing and cut his teeth in with Political Opinion pieces in his college newspaper. He won the 2021 SPARC Journalism Award for Best Political Piece and hopes to build on his achievements over time.
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