F1: Emilia-Romagna – Max Verstappen Wins from Pole in Imola
Red Bull takes their first 1-2 of the season with Sergio Perez finishing 2nd.
Max Verstappen takes his second win of the season, leading the wet-to-dry race comfortably ahead of Sergio Perez to take a Red Bull 1-2. The Dutchman drove an impressive weekend, recording a grand slam as well in the process. McLaren announces their comeback from a weak start to the season, with Lando Norris completing the podium after a late-race mistake by Charles Leclerc.
Unlike the Sprint Race, Verstappen launched well off pole and kept his lead, while Perez rocketed past Leclerc from 3rd on the grid. The Safety Car was triggered following a collision in the first chicane between Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo, where the latter faultlessly tagged Sainz while battling for position, causing the Spaniard to spin and beach his car for the second consecutive race. Ricciardo was able to drive away from the collision and rejoined last.
Shortly after the Safety Car period ended, Fernando Alonso rapidly started dropping pace, and was found to have sustained significant damage on his right sidepod, which apparently came from Mick Schumacher who spun shortly after the first chicane collision, hitting Alonso’s sidepod in the process. The two-time champion had to eventually retire his car after just six laps.
As the track began drying up, the drivers started driving off the racing line frequently to cool their intermediate tyres down. Awhile later with nothing to lose, Ricciardo pitted for slick compounds and began setting similar laptimes, triggering the field to box for the same compounds in the next two laps. As expected in such situation, pitlane activity turned chaotic as Esteban Ocon was released unsafely on Lewis Hamilton’s path and the two collided; the latter had to brake and avoid the Frenchman to avoid a potentially worse collision. Ocon was subsequently awarded with a 5-second time penalty for the unsafe release.
The race remained with Verstappen in the lead, while Perez spent a few laps battling with Leclerc before eventually securing 2nd. During the final stages of the race, Leclerc opted to pit for soft compounds in an attempt to snatch the fastest lap from Verstappen. Red Bull responded by doing the same with both their drivers. While chasing Perez for 2nd, Leclerc made an error in the Variante Alta chicane, hitting the yellow kerb too hard and spinning, and softly hit the barriers. The costly mistake led to him pitting for new tyres and fixing any potential wing damage, and he rejoined the race in 8th.
The costly mistake allowed the Red Bulls to cruise to a 1-2 finish, and also handed the final podium spot to Lando Norris. George Russell finishes an impressive 4th amid Mercedes’ struggles, fending off Valtteri Bottas from multiple DRS overtake attempts. Leclerc fought his way back to 6th, a sad end to Ferrari’s home round after a possible podium slipped away. Yuki Tsunoda finished an impressive 7th after overtaking Sebastian Vettel in the late stages in the race, the latter scoring his and Aston Martin’s first points of the season. Kevin Magnussen returns to the points with Haas, and Lance Stroll scores the final point to bring home a double-points finish for Aston Martin.
Alexander Albon came one spot shy from a second consecutive points finish, holding off Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton in a DRS train. The seven-time world champion struggled to overcome Mercedes’ issues, combined with the poor luck he suffered in the pitlane collision during the race. Esteban Ocon, who originally finished 11th, was demoted to 14th after the time penalty received for the unsafe pit release. Zhou Guanyu’s disappointing comes to an end in 15th, after a racing incident in the Sprint Race sent him to the wall, and was eventually handed a pitlane start after the team had to make setup adjustments during the repair.
Nicholas Latifi finished 16th, ahead of Mick Schumacher who once again struggles to find his maiden Formula 1 points, spinning twice during the race. Daniel Ricciardo finished 18th and last following his unfortunate collision with Sainz on the first lap, a sad end to the Aussie’s weekend after showing a relatively strong pace throughout the weekend.
Charles Leclerc remains in the championship lead with 86 points, while Verstappen managed to claw his way back to 2nd with 59 points, five points ahead of his teammate Perez. We now look forward into the first American round of the season for the inaugural Grand Prix of Miami, in a newly constructed street circuit which will bring a new challenge to the drivers and teams.
Featured Image – Red Bull Racing