For the second Grand Prix running Lewis Hamilton defied Red Bull’s superior form book to start on pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (AKA Imola GP). On paper it appeared to be a two-horse race between Hamilton and Verstappen. But Red Bull new boy Sergio Perez put a spanner in the works by out-qualifying Verstappen. The race started under wet conditions and as the red lights switched off it was Max Verstappen who out-dragged Hamilton to take a narrow lead from third. The Red Bull and Mercedes were side-by-side heading into the Tamburello chicane, a fast left-right corner. But Hamilton chose to out muscle Verstappen on the outside, a mistake because chicanes are designed to file traffic into a single-line. Hamilton had no option but to use the rumble strip to avoid a collision. As a result, his Mercedes bounced up and down and he was lucky to escape with minor damage to his front wing.
As Hamilton adjusted to the loss of aero-performance Verstappen opened up a 5-second gap. Then Hamilton stablised the gap and the top-two began trading fastest laps. Nearing the half-distance the track began to form a dry-line. At this point, many of the runners began to pit changing from full wets to slicks. Verstappen did so halfway through, Hamilton one lap later. At one point it seemed as though Hamilton would be right behind the Red Bull on pit-exit but he lost two seconds during his tyre stop but still emerged having reduced the deficit to 2.5 seconds.
However, as Hamilton was making his way through a gaggle of backmarkers he opted to lap George Russell by taking the damp inside line at Tosa. Hamilton slithered off and into the gravel trap. He then proceeded to hit the safety barrier as he navigated his way towards a nearby escape path and damaged his front wing. He decided to reverse back across the gravel trap towards the circuit. But lost almost 1 minute as he fumbled through the gearbox. At this point it seemed Hamilton had given away victory.
At the same moment Hamilton was crawling back to the pits, Geroge Russell and Valterri Bottas decided it was time to red-flag the race. A struggling Bottas, languishing in 9th place, had George Russell gunning for his points position. The Williams driver slipped streamed the Mercedes on the high-speed approach into Tamburello darting on the outside in a daring maneuver. With a still damp track off-line and on slick tyres Russell lost it, spun and collided with Bottas at an estimated speed of 205mph.
The collision caused the two to smash into the safety barriers on the left and then the residual momentum carried the two at speed across the width of the track and into the safety barriers on the right before coming to a full stop a further 180 meters beyond the initial impact. It was a huge crash with each driver blaming the other. With debris littering the crash zone race officials had no option but to stop the race.
At the restart, Hamilton found himself in 9th. At the front, the cold damp conditions nearly caught out Verstappen who momentarily lost the back of his Red Bull while warming his tyres up. But he kept his composure and used the superiority of his Red Bull to secure victory. Hamilton fought his way back to second and by claiming the fastest lap still leads the driver’s championship by 1 point. Lando Norris rounded up the top three with a storming drive in his McLaren.
The Emilia Romagna GP was intense, up and down the field. But it is clear that this year’s championship is becoming an epic tussle between Red Bull and Mercedes, specifically between Verstappen vs Hamilton. The Red Bull is the faster car but Hamilton’s raw speed is keeping Mercedes in the title hunt. The 2021 championship will be decided on who can keep their composure during the most intense moments, of which there will be many.
2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: Race Results
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||63||2:02:34.598||25|
|3||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Mercedes||63||+23.702s||15|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren Mercedes||63||+51.220s||8|
|7||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||63||+52.818s||6|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||63||+56.909s||4|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||63||+65.704s||2|
|10||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||63||+66.561s||1|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||63||+67.151s||0|
|12||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri Honda||63||+73.184s||0|
|13||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||63||+94.773s||0|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||62||+1 lap||0|
|15||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||61||DNF||0|
|16||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||61||+2 laps||0|
|17||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||61||+2 laps||0|
|NC||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||30||DNF||0|
|NC||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||0||DNF||0|
Note – Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Tsunoda received a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. Stroll received a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Raikkonen received a 30-second time penalty for a rolling start infringement.