Max wins at Imola, Hamilton crashes on his way to P2

Date published: April 18 2021 - Michelle Foster

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton lap 1 Imola

Max Verstappen won a chaotic red-flagged Emilia Romagna GP as Lewis Hamilton hit the wall while chasing him down and Valtteri Bottas and George Russell came to blows.

Verstappen made a flying start in the wet to lead into the first corner, leading all but one of the 63 laps, only relinquishing the lead to Hamilton when he came in to swap his inters for slicks.

Any chance of Hamilton chasing him down were undone when the Brit slid into the gravel and nosed the wall while moments later Mercedes’ day went from bad to worse as Russell and Bottas collided with the Williams driver trying to pass.

Both drivers blamed the other, Bottas giving the Brit the finger and Russell responded with a slap.

In the end Verstappen took a comfortable win with the red flag helping Hamilton recover to P2 as he was able to unlap himself.

Lando Norris joined them on the podium.

The grand prix afternoon was dramatic from start to finish as even before drivers made their way to the grid the rain came down, drenching the circuit, although only half the circuit. The other half was dry.

Making their way to the grid, Valtteri Bottas had a rear-left puncture, Fernando Alonso slid off at Tosa and nosed the barrier, Lance Stroll’s rear brakes caught fire and so too did Sebastian Vettel’s. The latter’s car wasn’t fixed in time, forcing him into a pit lane start. Charles Leclerc went off on the formation lap but recovered to take his P4 start position.

The remaining 19 drivers, with Hamilton on pole alongside Sergio Perez, but it was Max Verstappen who made the best start, fighting Hamilton wheel-to-wheel into the first corner. With no space, the Mercedes mounted the kerb, took flight and lost a piece of its front wing end plate. Perez lost third to Charles Leclerc. Carlos Sainz went through the gravel and so too did Nicholas Latifi with his second off, nose first into the wall, bringing out the Safety Car.

Mick Schumacher blotted his copybook as he hit the barrier trying to warm his tyres behind the Safety Car with Sergio Perez also in trouble as he went off the track and then passed two cars to recover his P4 position. That earned him a 10-second penalty.

The restart on lap 7 had Hamilton try to attack Verstappen but the Red Bull held firm, Leclerc running third and Perez P4 with Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz fighting over fifth. Lance Stroll got involved as Gasly, the only driver inside the top ten on the full wets, began to plummet down the order as his tyres gave out.

Off the track for the third, or fourth time, Sainz was told to “calm down”. Verstappen told Red Bull to “take a chance” with strategy and slick tyres. Norris told McLaren he needed “clear air” as he sat within DRS of his team-mate Ricciardo. Ricciardo was told to “swap positions” and did so.

Vettel without much to lose he faced a 10-second stop-go penalty – no fault of his own but because Aston Martin did not have the wheels on his car five minutes before the formation lap – was the first to gamble on slicks and, with his time down to a 1:29, the rest of the field began to follow suit.

Race leader Verstappen stopped on lap 28 with Hamilton, who had been two seconds behind the Dutchman, in a lap later. A sticky right front meant Verstappen retook the lead once Hamilton stopped with the Mercedes driver second, Leclerc third, Norris fourth and Perez, who took his penalty, P5.

Hamilton’s chase came to naught as he went nose first into the barrier, struggled to reverse and eventually rejoined but down in seventh place and on his way to the pits for a new nose. Mercedes’ day went from bad to worse Bottas and Russell collided, bringing out the red flags.

Russell tried to pass Bottas for ninth place around the outside, was squeezed onto the grass, got a tank slapper and took out Bottas and himself. Both cars were shattered, debris all over the place, and both drivers had a few choice words for each other. Bottas gave Russell the finger. Russell responded with a slap.

The running order under the red flag: Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Perez, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Tsunoda. Stroll, the first of the lapped cars, was allowed to lead out the rest to unlap themselves and return to the pit lane in the correct order.

Heading out behind the Safety Car, the drama continued as Verstappen had a moment but managed to stay ahead of Leclerc with the Dutchman holding onto the lead at the restart. Norris, on the soft tyres, took Leclerc, Tsunoda spun, Hamilton passed Raikkonen. Two laps later Perez threw away P4 at the Villeneuve Chicane as he spun into the gravel and fell to P14.

Hamilton steadily worked his way up the order to run P4 with 10 to go. He was 16 seconds behind Verstappen but less than two behind P2 driver Norris. With Leclerc dropping off the back of Norris, Hamilton used his DRS to take the Ferrari driver and move up to third, running in a podium place with eight to go. Norris didn’t go down without a fight, making Hamilton work for P2, but P2 is what he got.

Verstappen raced unchallenged to the chequered flag to take his first win of this season by 22 seconds ahead of Hamilton. The Mercedes driver also took fastest lap to lead the Drivers’ Championship by a single point with Verstappen P2. Norris was third ahead of the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz.

Ricciardo, Stroll, Gasly, Raikkonen and Ocon completed the points. Vettel retired on the penultimate lap with a gearbox issue but was classified P15.

After the race, the stewards took no further action on the Russell/Bottas incident but did punish Stroll with a five-second penalty for passing Pierre Gasly off the track. That saw him slip from P7 to P8.

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen dropped out of the points completely after being given a 30-second penalty for a restart infringement.

Result

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:17.526
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 22.000s
3 Lando Norris McLaren 23.702s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 25.579s
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 27.036s
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 51.220s
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 52.818s
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 56.909s
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 65.704s
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine 66.561s
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 67.151s
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 73.184s
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 94.773s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1 Lap
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1 Lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas 1 Lap
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas 2 Laps

Did Not Finish

Valtteri Bottas Mercedes crash
George Russell Williams crash
Nicholas Latifi Williams crash

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