Max Verstappen took the top step in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend with Sergio Perez in 2nd, bringing in a Red Bull 1-2 at Ferrari’s home race in Imola, Italy. Charles Leclerc suffered a late heartbreak after he spun his car around while fighting Perez for P2 on lap 55, while Sainz was spun around as well due to contact by Daniel Ricciardo on lap 1 itself, adding to the Spaniard’s 2nd DNF in 2 races.
George Russell took a miraculous 4th after Mercedes calling this weekend a ‘write-off’. Valtteri Bottas gave Alfa Romeo their best finish in a long time at P5 followed by the stricken Ferrari of Leclerc.
Yuki Tsunoda had an amazing race crossing the line at 7th followed by Sebastian Vettel’s Aston at 8th and the latter’s teammate Lance Stroll at P10; a much needed points haul for Aston Martin. Kevin Magnussen saw the chequered at a respectable P9 after starting P4 for the race.
Alex Albon missed out on yet another points finish this weekend, finishing 11th followed by the second Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly at P12. Beyond him was the surprised finish of Lewis Hamilton in P13 with Esteban Ocon right after the Briton in 14th.
Zhou Guanyu, Nicolas Latifi and Mick Schumacher crossed the line at 15th, 16th and 17th while Daniel Ricciardo had an unfortunate race on McLaren’s part after his contact with Sainz on the first lap, who, along with fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso, were among the list of non-finishers.
As it Happened:
All cars having started on the intermediate tires because of a wet track, Max Verstappen had a perfect run down to the first corner after botching the same on yesterday’s Sprint. Leclerc suffered a very slow start and lost positions to Perez and Norris while the other Ferrari of Sainz also having a terrible start with him fighting for dear life against Ricciardo. Yet down into the first Tamburello chicane, Ricciardo got on the wet part of the track and slid into Sainz. Both the cars went off track and Sainz beached his car. Ricciardo still was able to get out after taking the escape route, bringing out the safety car.
Two laps post green flag, the Alpine of Fernando Alonso was forced into the pits after a side-pod damage that left a gaping hole on the car, Alpine engineers deeming it unfit for drive. Leclerc took his fight to Norris and passed him the lap after, owing to the immense performance advantage of that Ferrari.
Down in the mid-field, there was in fact a slew of battles that made the race all the more interesting to watch, notably an intense three way battle between Tsunoda, Stroll and Hamilton. Also joining in on the action was the Haas of Magnussen and the Alfa Romeo of Bottas, duking it out back and forth for a handful of laps.
Soon after, the track had begun to get dry and all of the drivers hustled to pit for medium tires, starting with Ricciardo. Max and Charles both pit from the top 2, with the Monegasque having a 1.4s slower pit stop than the world champion. This cost the Ferrari driver P2 after a good enough out-lap by Perez, who sped past him along the pit exit. This would even trigger a fight for P2 between these two drivers with Perez showing some amazing defensive moves against the other, but that won’t go on for long this time around.
During this time, the track was dry enough to make people wonder why the DRS was not getting enabled by then. To the uninitiated, for a wet race, DRS or the ‘Drag Reduction System’ is always disabled due to safety concerns. During the race, the track was dry enough for it to enabled and make way for some tasty overtakes.
Hamilton had to fight the strong Red Bull-powered Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly for a significant part of his race, trying to make moves over and over again but to zero avail. It was in fact seen that Hamilton could not out-brake that Alpha Tauri no matter what, and was even observed to be suffering from extreme porpoising on the straights.
After the DRS finally being enabled on lap 35, a rather striking scenario was seen: Max Verstappen lapped the 14th-running Lewis Hamilton. Last time they were in Imola, things panned out very, very differently.
About the 50th lap mark, all of the top 3 pit for fresh sets of soft tires. Following which, Leclerc engaged in another battle with P2 Perez. After a few laps worth of him closing his gap to the Red Bull, Leclerc took on too much kerb and spun his car around into turn 15, crashing into the barrier. Luckily for him, he was able to keep his car running and pit immediately for a new front wing. This spelt doom for the championship leader, as he dropped straight down to P9.
Leclerc’s spin meant the 3rd place running was inherited by Lando Norris, who had in fact started the race 3rd after yesterday’s Sprint.
In the final few laps of the Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas and George Russell took up the fight for 4th place, with the former Mercedes driver coming tantalisingly close to Russell’s gearbox. Yet it was Russell who came out on top, finishing P4.
Post Race Analysis of the Grand Prix:
As for the winners of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, it surely is Red Bull, after they had the highest ever points hauled by any team over a race weekend. Max Verstappen himself had the best he could have, after an 8-points win in yesterday’s Sprint and a 25-points win for the Grand Prix. Add to that, the extra 1 point for fastest lap, giving him his 2nd F1 “Grand Chelem”. Sergio Perez also had a brilliant weekend, after salvaging some points from the Sprint as well as securing the first 1-2 for Red Bull since 2016.
McLaren had a mixed bag kind of a race, with one of their drivers up on the podium and the other down in last. Still, this is a massive improvement from their season start, where they were just fighting for the final few spots on the grid.
Aston Martin also had an improvement as both of their drivers scored points for the first time this season.
As for the losers, the biggest one here, painfully so, is Ferrari. They looked amazing coming into their home race weekend, with Leclerc even starting it on P2 and Sainz right behind him on the grid. Yet, Sainz’s DNF and Leclerc’s spin meant the team came out of the weekend with a lot less points than they might have expected.
Mercedes’ porpoising problems do not seem to wither as the Russell even calling the car ‘undrivable’, even though they might have scored a P4. Hamilton still finished a terrible 13th, not something you would expect from a dominant force as Mercedes.
Alpine would even be considered as one of the losers of the race as they were considered favourites for the weekend. An unfortunate DNF for Fernando Alonso and a 14th finish for Ocon meant they had zero points haul from the Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc leads the championship with Max Verstappen now up to 2nd. F1 returns in just two weeks’ time to the newly made track in Miami for the 5th round of this season!