Race Report: Verstappen wins Imola GP

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 18: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 18, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Despite their win in Bahrain, there were still lingering questions about the actual pace of the Mercedes versus Red Bull. What amounted to terrific tactics securing the Mercedes win in Bahrain, it looked to be a reversed opportunity for Red Bull with Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen on split strategies.

With Lewis Hamilton on pole and his wingman, Valtteri Bottas mired down in 8th, he had no teammate to fight off the Red Bull duo so the champ was exposed. In the end, none of that mattered as rain came at the start of the race and created a changing-conditions race that threw all strategy in the bin.

In the end, it was a win for Max Verstappen, his 11th, with a fantastic recovery drive for Lewis Hamilton, who benefitted from a red flag session due to his teammate’s crash with Williams driver George Russell, came him in 2nd. McLaren’s Lando Norris had a fantastic drive to complete the podium.

Win

A win for Red Bull and Max Verstappen who claimed his 11th win with a great start to take the lead on Inters and hold off the Mercedes of Hamilton to take the win. The changing conditions were tricky and the team made the switch to Medium compounds at the right time while covering Mercedes strategy.

It’s a win for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes who kept their heads despite and unforced error when trying to pass back markers that lost them a lap. The red flag un-lapped Lewis and he stormed back to second with an incredibly inspired drive. His fastest lap point keeps him in the championship lead.

A win for Lando Norris who had a terrific weekend and despite his 7th place starting position, he was much quicker that his teammate, struggled early on but managed to make the most of the red flag restart with soft tires and run to the podium. A key performance as both Ferrari’s were hounding him and McLaren look set for a fight for best of the rest with the Scuderia.

A win for Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in 4th and 5th. Carlos made several mistakes early on while pushing hard but recovered from those mistakes to finish on the tail of his teammate. For Charles, he looked set at the beginning of the race but the red flag didn’t work in their favor as it left him vulnerable to Lando’s McLaren.

A win for Lance Stroll who struggled on the formation lap with brakes that were on fire. The team managed to repair the brakes and he ran a strong race in 7th while his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, suffered the same issue and had to start from the pit lane.

Honorable mentions to Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon for a points finish.

Fail

A fail for Valtteri Bottas who struggled all weekend long and could not make his way forward, like Lewis did, for a recovery drive after a challenging qualifying session. Bottas was then involved in a crash with George Russell with both pointing the finger at the other.

A fail fo rSergio Perez who qualified 2nd and steadily went backwards. The king of tire management may be good on tires but changing conditions was not his strong suit on Sunday. A few unforced errors and penalties left him adrift and even when he benefited from the red flag to get back in the top 4, he ran off again and spoiled his race finishing 12th.

A fail for Williams who saw both their cars out of the race. Nicholas Latifi managed that all on his own with a spin into the wall and George Russell had a collision with Bottas that ended his race and he was heading for the points.

While no one had aspirations of points, with the attrition and red flag, you never know. That’s why Mick Schumacher had a bad day as he spun on lap 4 and the pit lane was closed. It cost him time and left him at the back.

WTH

Not sure what Yuki Tsunoda wasn’t understanding about track limits but was shown the black/white flag and given a 5s penalty for continually ignoring them.

While Pierre Gasly finished 8th, it was a tough race as the team had him on full wets and waited, seemingly too long, to get him on to Inters. Esteban boxed early to get his full wets off and one might think this would have been the right move for Gasly too given his pace.

Pirelli Key Moments:

  • The thrilling Imola race, with Pirelli as title sponsor, was interrupted by a red flag after 34 laps to clean debris off the track following an accident. The red flag allowed teams to service the cars and change tires, meaning that the final part of the race was a 29-lap sprint.
  • Rain before the start of the race meant that nearly all the cars started on Cinturato Green intermediates, with just four on the Cinturato Blue full wet. There were two safety cars before the red flag, which occurred when the track was almost dry. During the second safety car period all the runners moved onto slick tires. Everyone selected P Zero Yellow mediums once the crossover point was reached, apart from Haas, which went onto the P Zero Red softs.
  • Verstappen took the lead at the first corner of lap one from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who had started from pole. Red Bull driver started from the head of the field following the re-start on the medium tire and held onto his advantage until the end. He then maintained the lead after stopping before Hamilton for P Zero Yellow medium slicks.
  • Hamilton finished second following a fantastic fightback and claimed the extra championship point for fastest lap, despite being a lap down before the re-start after going off the track. McLaren’s Lando Norris was third, using the P Zero Red soft for the final stint.
  • The combination of rain, safety cars and red flags meant that strategies were a question of reacting to rapidly changing circumstances. Most drivers followed a broadly similar run plan though: starting on Cinturato Green intermediates and then switching to P Zero Yellow mediums from just before the red flag all the way to the end of the race.

Imola GP Results

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
133Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA632:02:34.59825
244Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES63+22.000s19
34Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES63+23.702s15
416Charles LeclercFERRARI63+25.579s12
555Carlos SainzFERRARI63+27.036s10
63Daniel RicciardoMCLAREN MERCEDES63+51.220s8
710Pierre GaslyALPHATAURI HONDA63+52.818s6
818Lance StrollASTON MARTIN MERCEDES63+56.909s4
931Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT63+65.704s2
1014Fernando AlonsoALPINE RENAULT63+66.561s1
1111Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA63+67.151s0
1222Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA63+73.184s0
137Kimi RäikkönenALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI63+94.773s0
1499Antonio GiovinazziALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI62+1 lap0
155Sebastian VettelASTON MARTIN MERCEDES61DNF0
1647Mick SchumacherHAAS FERRARI61+2 laps0
179Nikita MazepinHAAS FERRARI61+2 laps0
NC77Valtteri BottasMERCEDES30DNF0
NC63George RussellWILLIAMS MERCEDES30DNF0
NC6Nicholas LatifiWILLIAMS MERCEDES0DNF0
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Wayne R

How ridiculously lucky is HAM? He spins and ends up a lap down, but then BOT and RUS crash into each other at speed and bring out the red flag, so he gets to unlap himself before the re-start, and then simply drives to 2nd place… (It reminded me of Crash Gate, Merc crashes and Merc benefits… Yes, I know it’s a stretch…) In my mind, this just seems so unfair to the 6 drivers, who were in front of HAM after he spun (and did not spin off in the wet themselves due to an unforced error) but ended up behind… Read more »

peter

Here’s a quandary: If Hamilton was a lap down when the race was restarted – even if he “gained” (gifted) those 75 seconds as a freebee – he was STILL A LAP DOWN… meaning at the end of the race he had NOT completed 63 laps. Do the math.

Fabio

Was he a lap down? Didn’t they release him in the pit lane to unlap himself? Although he should have ended up at the back of the field then, so not sure what happened either.

Wayne R

Yes, you’re right, if the race had not restarted, how can the drivers unlap themselves…

TobyS

Couple of small changes: Latifi didn’t spin into a wall. He span off the track and recovered into the path of Mazepin who then span him into the wall.
The second isn’t a correction really. Just the irony that Schumacher had to do the extra lap because the pit lane was closed while they cleared up the debris that he himself left at pit exit.