Max Verstappen Makes Good On Red Bull Racing’s Performance Promise At Imola

Illustration for article titled Max Verstappen Makes Good On Red Bull Racing's Performance Promise At Imola

Photo: Bryn Lennon (Getty Images)

Race day dawned a damp one at Imola for the Formula One Emilia Romanga Grand Prix, which promised plenty of chaos. And the second race of the season delivered with Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing dominating the event from flag to flag while pandemonium reigned behind him.

Chaos started long before the green flag, with Charles Leclerc spinning into the gravel on the formation lap and Sebastian Vettel suffering a brake-by-wire failure on his Aston Martin.

And things only got better at race start. Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes had a slower start, which left Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen to pull up alongside him. Two aggressive drivers heading into the first chicane promised a bit of disaster, and they delivered: Verstappen pushed Hamilton wide, causing the reigning World Champion to run over the curb and lose both a piece of his bodywork and the lead.

Green flag racing didn’t last for long. Nicholas Latifi spun his Williams and then, upon entering the track, was struck by Nikita Mazepin. Latifi then lost control and made hard contact with the barriers. It brought out the first safety car of the day—which drivers complained was moving too slowly and causing them to lose tire temperature.

Perhaps feeling left out, Mazepin’s teammate Mick Schumacher lost control on the front stretch and struck the wall just outside of pit exit. He was forced to make a few laps without his front wing, since pit lane was closed.

The race kicked back off on lap seven, at which point the track slowly began to dry. The issue was highlighted by Pierre Gasly, whose AlphaTauri was still outfitted with wet tires and caused the cars behind him to get packed up.

Hamilton began to close the gap to Verstappen as the first pit stop cycle started, with Verstappen taking tires first. But Mercedes had a slower stop, leaving him to chase the Red Bull yet again.

On lap 31, though, disaster struck for Hamilton; he slid off the track and into the gravel, bumping into the barrier. It took him a long time to reverse out of the gravel trap. His front wing was dragging on the ground, but he made it to the pits to get sorted out.

Just after, Valtteri Bottas and George Russell made contact, knocking both cars out of the running. Russell got onto the grass attempting to pass Bottas, the latter of whom had moved over just a bit into Russell’s path, leaving both cars to make contact. It brought out a red flag to clear up the debris and double-check the barriers.

After a lengthy break, cars took to the track. Verstappen slid just before taking off on the green flag, but he managed to hold the lead. Lando Norris pulled into second quickly with Leclerc in third. Yuki Tsunoda spun into the gravel trap on the opening lap but managed to right himself before any drama took place. A few laps later, fourth-place Sergio Perez spun and dropped back to 14th. And, as the race went on, Hamilton picked his way through the field to reach second place just laps before the end, taking 0.3 seconds off the fastest lap in the process.

After failing to finish at all three of the Grands Prix in Italy in 2020, Max Verstappen took the checkered flag first at the 2021 Emilia Romanga Grand Prix.

Finishing Order:

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
  2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  3. Lando Norris (McLaren)
  4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  5. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)
  6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
  7. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
  8. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
  9. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
  10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
  11. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
  12. Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing)
  13. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
  14. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
  15. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
  16. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
  17. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)
  18. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  19. George Russell (Williams)
  20. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
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