Max Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after hectic race

18-04-2021 16:05 | Updated: 18-04-2021 18:24
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Max Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after hectic race

Max Verstappen has won the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, confirming Red Bull’s intent to challenge Mercedes for the Formula 1 2021 World Championship titles. The Dutchman started from third on the grid and was able to lead for the majority of the race. Lewis Hamilton finished second and Lando Norris rounded off the podium places.

After a dominant but victory-less weekend in Bahrain in March, the 23-year-old beats his second-place finish in the season-opener to claim victory. Despite having a strong start to the weekend during all practice sessions, Verstappen was beaten in qualifying by Hamilton and teammate Sergio Perez.

Perez’s 12th place finish closes the gap on Mercedes’ lead in the Constructor’s championship to seven points, following Hamilton’s second and Valtteri Bottas’ DNF.

Hamilton pushed to try and close the gap to Verstappen following a pitstop but poor track conditions resulted in the Brit sliding onto the gravel and into the wall, damaging his front wing and dropping seven places to ninth. 

Norris, Hamilton and Leclerc had an intense battle in the final 10 laps of the race, thus emphasising the strength of the midfield teams in the two races this season. McLaren and Ferrari's lead and battle at the top of the midfield was extended today, with Norris and Daniel Ricciardo being split by the Ferrari drivers. 

A crash between Bottas and George Russell on Lap 34 resulted in a red-flagging of the race, as both drivers collided into multiple barriers.

Drama at the start of the race

Sebastian Vettel's slow start to life at Aston Martin continued today, as rear brake issues forced him to start the race from the pit lane and receive a 10-second stop and go penalty. The formation lap drama continues from Bahrain as Charles Leclerc spun out at Acqua Minerale losing one place to Pierre Gasly, but was able to regain his position before returning to the grid.

Max Verstappen had a flying start, as the Red Bull driver overtook both Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez off the start line.

Nicholas Latifi was the next to spin out into the gravel at Acqua Minerale but was able to continue, before making contact with Nikita Mazepin, only seconds later, and colliding into the wall, forcing the race to be put under safety car. Yuki Tsunoda gained six places at the start. Esteban Ocon lost eight. Perez was next to be involved in drama as he overtook Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly under the safety car, thus resulting in a 10-second stop and go penalty.

Mick Schumacher was the next to spin out, whilst trying to warm his tyres. However, the Haas rookie only lost his front wing but closed the pit entry due to debris being fluttered over the exit.

By lap nine, Norris recovered from his poor start and overtook three cars after the safety car restart, one being Gasly, as they exchanged overtakes in an exciting battle for sixth place.

In the pits

Gasly was one of the few drivers who started on wet tyres, thinking the rain would continue to hit the track but pitted on Lap 15 to join the majority of the grid using the intermediate tyres, after losing a lot of time in the opening laps. Vettel and Aston Martin were the first team to turn to 'slicks' as the track started to dry up, as the German pitted for medium tyres on Lap 22.

At the front, Verstappen pitted on Lap 28 for medium tyres, whilst only being 1.8 seconds ahead of Hamilton, due to conditions drying on the track. Mercedes then joined Red Bull and pitted Hamilton the lap after. However, a 4.0-second pit stop and slow pit entry resulted in Verstappen retaking the lead. Both drivers stayed at the front of the race, but rejoined in traffic and struggled to overtake until Acqua Minerale.

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