F1: Verstappen Holds off Hamilton’s Early Charge to Claim Imola Win
Max Verstappen held off Lewis Hamilton’s early pressure to claim his first Italian Grand Prix victory in fine style. Hamilton recovered from an off-track excursion at Tosa to take second place, whilst Lando Norris fended off both Ferraris to take his second F1 podium.
The Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio Del Made In Italy E Dell’emilia Romagna Grand Prix saw drama before the lights went out as rain played havoc on the three-mile Italian circuit. Fernando Alonso put his Alpine in the barriers on his way to the grid, whilst both Aston Martin’s suffered issues with Lance Stroll’s brakes catching fire and Sebastian Vettel running into issues that caused him to start the 63-lap Grand Prix from the pitlane. Vettel later retired with a few laps remaining.
It was a race of two halves as the second round of the F1 World Championship got underway in Italy in wet conditions. Max Verstappen’s cat-like reaction saw him challenge Hamilton into the opening chicane. The Dutchman squeezed the Mercedes driver to the edge of the track, forcing the British driver to run across the elevated kerbs, damaging his W12.
Despite his best efforts, Charles Leclerc couldn’t get the better of the injured Hamilton, who held onto second in the race’s opening stages. More opening lap drama saw Nicholas Latifi spin at Acque Minerali before colliding with Nakita Mazepin as he rejoined, ending his race early.
With the safety car deployed, the race took another turn after the second Haas car of Mick Schumacher found its way into the barriers on the entry to turn one. The son of Michael lost the car whilst warming his tyres, damaging the front wing. To make matters worse for the 22-year-old, debris on the exit to pit lane forced race direction to close the pit entry, meaning he had to do an extra lap with a damaged wing. Schumacher recovered to finish in P16, two laps down on Verstappen.
As the race got back underway, Verstappen maintained the lead of the race, despite Hamilton’s efforts to make the pass around the outside at turn one. Further back, Lando Norris was making progress and caught the back of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren asked the Australian to let Norris past, which Riccardo obliged and let his younger team-mate set after the leading cars.
It wasn’t the start of the race Ferrari nor Carlos Sainz would have wanted. The Spaniard ventured out of the track on a number of occasions as he struggled to get to grips with the Prancing Horse in damp conditions. Sainz quickly found his feet though and was back in the fight for the top six.
By lap 28 Verstappen was in for his first stop of the race, strapping on a set of medium tyres. Hamilton opted to stay out for an extra lap as he and his Mercedes crew looked to jump the leading Red Bull, but a slow pitstop for the reigning champions saw the number 44 car emerge behind Verstappen once again.
As the leaders battled their way through traffic, Hamilton caught up to his Mercedes counterpart in the form of Williams’ George Russell. The seven-time champion looked to the inside of Russell, but lost control of the car at turn six, running off the track and into the gravel. The already damaged front wing suffered an even bigger knock as Hamilton thumped the wall, but was able to get the car into reverse gear to rejoin the race.
Just one lap later and Russell was at the centre of attention again, this time making a move on the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, but the pair came together in dramatic fashion seeing both cars skittle into the barrier before coming to rest in turn one’s gravel trap, ending both of their races and bringing out a red flag.
With the race equalised and back underway, race leader Max Verstappen found his limit as he looked to restart the race, nearly spinning out of contention at Rivazza. Luckily for the Dutch driver, he caught the car before it was too late, maintaining the lead and bolting off into the distance.
Leclerc found himself behind Norris on the run into turn one. The Ferrari driver had no radio for the second half of the race and didn’t know the race was being restarted as a rolling start, gifting the McLaren the opportunity to pounce.
Sergio Perez’s race went from bad to worse. The Mexican span off track during the opening safety car period and decided to retake his position on track, passing several cars in the process. Later. Checo found himself in the gravel again, this time losing control of the Red Bull at turn five, dropping to 14th and out of the points.
Meanwhile, team-mate Verstappen had a comfortable lead over Lando Norris, who by lap 55 had Lewis Hamilton in his rearview mirrors after the British driver stole third from Leclerc in a heroic comeback from eighth. Hamilton had a few attempts at passing his fellow Brit and eventually completed the pass at turn one on lap 60, opening up a gap to comfortably finish in second place, 20.000 seconds behind Verstappen.
Lando Norris held off Leclerc to take third, becoming the 700th Great British podium, while Carlos Sainz recovered to complete the top-five. Riccardo was unable to replicate his podium performance of 2020, coming home to take his 13th consecutive points finish in sixth ahead of Pierre Gasly, who had a torrid start to the race on the ‘extreme wet weather’ tyre.
Lance Stroll beat Gasly over the line, but an overtake in which saw the Canadian “run off and gain a lasting advantage” saw him drop to eighth, while a penalty for Kimi Raikkonen meant it was double points for Alpine with Esteban Ocon beating Fernando Alonso – who claims his first point in his returning season.
Pinching the fastest lap, Hamilton holds on to the lead of the championship, ironically sat with 44 points, a single point ahead of Verstappen. Norris sits third with Leclerc and Bottas behind. Carlos Sainz his sixth in the 2021 standings on 14 points with the happy-go-lucky Australian of Riccardo in seventh. A tough start sees Perez claim 10 points out of a possible 50, and heads to round three lying in eighth, just ahead of Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll.
The Formula One World Championship will take a short break before returning to action for round three, as the four-wheeled circus heads to Portimao for their second visit to the rollercoaster on the Algarve.
Featured images: Red Bull Content Pool
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