Lewis Hamilton started the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix from pole position, the 99th in his Formula 1 career, but with the rain falling, it was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who took a superb win at the Imola circuit and in so doing, depriving Hamilton of back to back victories.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was filled with excitement and drama right from the outset, which included a Safety Car period on Lap 2 after Nicholas Latifi crashed heavily and then the race being red flagged halfway through, following a high speed crash involving Valtteri Bottas and George Russell as they came together at Tamburello. Hamilton was also involved with his own drama, recovering from a spin at Tosa to finish second. And it was another terrific drive from Lando Norris, who worked his way from seventh to third to take the final podium position.
It was however Verstappen and Red Bull’s day, crossing the finish line over 20 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Norris’ strong performance deprived Ferrari and Charles Leclerc of a podium finish, having jumped the Ferrari after the red flag restart.
Carlos Sainz crossed the line fifth despite two outings through the gravel, while Daniel Ricciardo took sixth for McLaren. Lance Stroll was once again fast in the wet and managed to move up from 10th to finish seventh ahead of Pierre Gasly. However, after the race Stroll was given a five-second penalty and therefore finished eighth, moving Gasly up to seventh.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen started 16th but managed to finish ninth, however he was later penalised for an infringement during the Lap 35 rolling start that meant Esteban Ocon took ninth and Fernando Alonso scored his first point since his comeback, finishing in 10th for Alpine.
Further down the field, Haas had a challenging Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with an underdeveloped car and two rookie drivers. Mazepin was not at fault when he got clipped by Latifi at the start of the race but was off the pace and like his teammate Mick Schumacher finished the race two laps down.
Verstappen said after the race:
“I am of course very happy with this win for everyone in the Team and Honda. I think the key was of course the start as we had a great launch. I surprised myself as it was always hard to get off the line in the wet last year but we worked hard to try and improve that and it worked. The conditions were challenging out there, especially in the beginning and it was very hard to stay on track but we stayed out of trouble. I wouldn’t call it a dominant performance as Lewis was following me quite well and for him to come back to second after his incident means they have a lot of pace in that car. We won because we made the right calls with tyres at the right time and the Team managed everything well in these conditions. With the tyres degrading, choosing the right moment to go onto slicks wasn’t easy but we got it right. I had a little moment at the re-start trying to warm up the tyres with some throttle but luckily we didn’t spin. We still have to work hard to improve because it’s very close, but for now I’m very happy with the result. I’m looking forward to Portimão because it’s an amazing track and then we go to a track we all know well in Barcelona. We’ll see what we can do but so far, it’s been a good start to the year.”
Hamilton summed up his second place finish by saying:
“Considering I was facing the barrier at one stage, then a lap down, yeah, it was a difficult day in that regard. I had some really good pace in the rain and was catching but just a little bit impatient, maybe, with the backmarkers. I’m only human so these mistakes happen. I’m grateful that I was back in the race and could hunt down and get back to second. The car had a rough time today. I started first, should have been first at the finish but these things are sent to test us and we’ve got a great battle on our hands. Game on.”
Ferrari picked up 22 valuable points, thanks to a fourth placed finish for Charles Leclerc and fifth for Carlos Sainz. The team is clearly making progress, but a hint of disappointment as a podium finish was within Leclerc’s grasp, who summed up the race by saying:
“It was an interesting race, although a bit frustrating, because I was in a really good place before the red flag which wiped out the advantage we had built up in the first part of the race. Unfortunately, I struggled after the restart, since I was vulnerable in the straights and that made it difficult to fight or defend from others. In fact we had taken a bit of a gamble with some more downforce, which helped us in the rain, but made it more difficult for us when it was dry in the second part of the race.
“Overall, I’m very happy with the performance we had today. There is definitely a lot of motivation. We are fighting for more interesting positions now and this is positive. We have been working well and if we keep it up, I’m sure that we will be fighting for the top places soon.”
The next round of the Championship is in two weeks’ time when the Portuguese Grand Prix takes place at the Autòdromo Internacional do Algarve di Portimão on Sunday 2nd May 2021.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office and McLaren