Verstappen dominates at wet Imola for Emilia Romagna GP victory

The Red Bull driver stars in action-packed race at Imola

IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 18: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda leads the field during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 18, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202104180272 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen put in a masterful drive in wet conditions to secure an impressive win at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The Dutchman finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton at Imola, while Lando Norris completed the podium to secure the second top three finish of his F1 career.

There was drama before the race when an unexpected shower hit the circuit, resulting in Fernando Alonso hitting the barrier on his way to the grid, forcing him back to the garage for a new front wing.

The Aston Martin mechanics also had work to do before the race as Lance Stroll suffered a rear brake fire on his way to the grid. His teammate Sebastian Vettel also had smoking brakes before the race, and the team was unable to finish work on the four-time champion’s car before the formation lap, forcing him to start from the pitlane.

Verstappen had the best start, immediately passing his teammate before getting alongside ahead of the first corner. The pair touched heading into the chicane, leaving the reigning champion with bodywork damage.

Several drivers spun as they tested the level on grip on the wet track, including Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, who then had a coming together with Nikita Mazepin, sending the Canadian into the wall and bringing out the safety car.

Mick Schumacher started well, getting ahead of Fernando Alonso just before the safety car came out, but the German rookie made a mistake while weaving to warm his tyres, skidding into the barrier at the exit of the pitlane to leave himself without a front wing.

With the safety car out, the pitlane was closed, meaning the Haas driver couldn’t come straight into the pitlane for repairs. Sergio Perez also had an issue behind the safety car, running wide and losing a couple of places. The Mexican quickly retook the positions he lost, earning himself a 10-second time penalty for overtaking behind the safety car.

Hamilton challenged the Red Bull driver on the restart, but Verstappen had the pace to stay ahead, before the Mercedes racer started to face pressure from Charles Leclerc behind.

Lando Norris also showed pace after the track was clear, passing Stroll and Carlos Sainz in quick succession, before getting the better of Pierre Gasly a lap later.

Unlike the majority of the front runners, Gasly started the race on full wet tyres, rather than intermediates, but as the track started the dry out, the Frenchman soon tumbled down the order, dropping from fifth to 15 in just a couple of laps.

Vettel was the first driver to try slicks, but his Aston Martin looked a little twitchy on the medium compound. He also found himself back in the pitlane a lap later as he was given a 10-second stop and go penalty for not having his tyres fitted at the five-minute signal before the race.

Most of the field started to filter in for slicks a couple of laps later, with Verstappen doing so one lap ahead of Hamilton. Hamilton pushed on his inlap, attempting to overcut the Dutch driver, but Mercedes driver had to wait in his pit box a moment longer as Antonio Giovinazzi came in behind him, costing him the chance to rejoin the track ahead of Verstappen.

Hamilton’s hopes of challenging for the race win were dashed on his outlap though as he ran wide, skimming the gravel before breaking his front wing again the barrier. He eventually managed to find reverse and get himself out of the gravel trap, but he dropped out of the podium places, and needed to come straight back to the pits for a replacement front wing.

However, the safety car was out moments later as George Russell lined up a pass on Valtteri Bottas, getting a wheel on the wet grass which spun his Williams, sending him into the side of the Mercedes before both cars careered back across the track and came to rest in the gravel, with the Finn suffering a particularly high impact with the barrier.

There appeared to be a disagreement between the two drivers over who was responsible, with the pair exchanging words at the scene, while the race was red flagged to allow the extensive debris to be dealt with.

With the track still drying, it was a rolling restart once the track was clear, with Verstappen almost losing control as he warmed his tyres on the outlap.

Leclerc in second was unable to make the most of the leader’s slip though, as Norris immediately put him under pressure, and moved ahead of the Ferrari driver as the track went greed.

There was disappointment for Yuki Tsunoda on the restart though as he briefly got ahead of Hamilton before spinning, dropping him down from eighth to 15th. The Japanese rookie also picked up a five-second time penalty for repeatedly breaching track limits.

Perez also looked for a way past Leclerc, but the Mexican ran slightly wide, getting on the wet part of the track, causing him to spin and ending his hopes of a spot on the podium.

Hamilton started to make his way through the field as he recovered from his spin, fighting his way ahead of Stroll before cruising around Ricciardo and Sainz. Leclerc was trying to retake second from Norris when he was caught by Hamilton, and defended as he tried to keep his Ferrari ahead, but it was the Briton who came out on top.

The seven-time champion was soon on the rear of Norris’s McLaren, with Norris putting up a hard fight as he tried to keep himself ahead, but Hamilton eventually made is past, reclaiming second place with two laps to go.

Hamilton’s efforts passing Norris also saw him set the fastest lap of the race, which was just enough to keep him ahead of Verstappen in the drivers’ standings.

There was also late disappointment for Vettel, as a gearbox issue meant he had to retire his Aston Martin.

Provisional classification:

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

3. Lando Norris (McLaren)

4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)

7. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

8. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

9. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)

10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

11. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

12. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

13. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

14. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

15. Mick Schumacher (Haas)

16. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)


Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)

Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

George Russell (Williams)

Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

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