Max Verstappen assured Imola on Sunday that he would be a dangerous contender for Lewis Hamilton in the 2021 world title battle. The winner of the event-packed Grand Prix Emilia-Romagna, the Dutchman got just one point close to his opponent in the championship standings.
The race started in the rain and was marked by several accidents, but Verstappen ignored the hurdles to imposing his Red Bull with a 22-second priority on Hamilton. The conditions were really complicated [dimanche]Especially at the start of the race, and it was difficult to stay on track, the winner explained in a post-race interview. The key was the beginning, and I admit that I surprised myself by going from third to first place.
“We ran the race really well after that, including choosing the right time to switch to the slick tires. I had very little time. [une légère sortie de piste] When the race resumed, everything went well. I wouldn’t say I dominated – Lewis was still very close and his comeback in second place after off the track confirms the Mercedes is very fast – but we can be optimistic for the rest of the season. ”
For his part, Hamilton has already shown that he still has serious origins in the fight for the world title. But the Brit made two mistakes: the first when he let Verstappen take advantage, and the second, most seriously, at 31e He turned around when he found himself facing the security fence after exiting the road. Time to back off and start over, the seven-time world champion was one lap away.
However, moments later, a dangerous accident involving teammate Valtteri Bottas and George Russell (Williams) interrupted the race. Hamilton then managed to return from eighth to second place, and completed the fastest lap of the race during this impressive comeback, which allowed him to collect an extra point and maintain first place in the championship standings.
“My rhythm was good in the rain and I was catching up [Verstappen]But maybe you’re a little impatient, ”Hamilton said. It’s been a long time since I made mistakes, but I’m a human, and these are things that happen.
“I’m glad I was able to get back in the race and climb to second place. It wasn’t easy [dimanche]. I was starting in the first grade and should have won, but races like this are here to test us and we know we have a big battle ahead. we are ready [game on] ! »
Norris still shines, Ferrari confirms
After the two candidates, Britain’s Lando Norris was again the day’s leading driver, taking an impressive third place behind the wheel of his McLaren. The 21-year-old was deprived of third place on the starting line on Saturday after his best lap was canceled for disrespecting track boundaries, and this time he made no mistakes.
“With the exception of the qualifiers, it was a really perfect weekend,” said Norris. We decided to use the softer tires after the red flag, but it was tough. ”
The British made use of his more efficient tires to quickly overtake Charles Leclerc when he started the race again, but then had to deal with their slow degradation. “I started preserving my tires from the first lap, because I knew it was going to be tough on the last laps. And it was like that, especially with Lewis, but I didn’t have the tires to resist him in the end.”
Strong third in the championship standings, Norris could be ambitious. “It’s really exciting to fight with unusual opponents, like Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari,” he recalls. I hope we can do that again in the next rounds. ”
Despite his lead over Norris, Charles Leclerc (fourth) and teammate Carlos Sainz (fifth) have confirmed Ferrari’s recovery this season. The Scuderia is still behind the top two teams, and appears to be well positioned to challenge McLaren for third place in the constructors’ championship.
Daniel Ricciardo (6ePierre Gasly (7eLance Stroll (8eEsteban Ocon (9eAnd Fernando Alonso (10eHe also scored points on Sunday, the last to benefit from a penalty kick by Kimi Raikkonen, who finished the event in 10th place.
An accident that could have gone wrong
The wet track surrounded many drivers, including two dangerous skirmishes each with the Williams driver. Nicholas Latifi hit the wall for the first time, on the first lap, at the exit of turn 13, after touching the Russian Nikita Mazpin Haas. The Canadian, who escaped unhurt, admitted: “I went out of the curve very wide, and after I got back on the track, I didn’t see Mazbin and he couldn’t dodge. It’s my fault and I’m very sorry for the team.”
The second collision, in which Bottas and Russell participated, was more dangerous, as both drivers had exceeded 250 km / h when they crashed. The Williams driver tried to overtake the Bottas’ Mercedes from the outside while driving down a soggy portion of the track and lost control of his car when it appeared that his opponent was approaching him. The cars collided with the protective walls very violently and Bottas, visibly stunned, for a long time remained in his Mercedes. Then Russell approached to cheer for his opponent.
After the race, the British youngster explained: “There is an unwritten rule that says a driver does not go out of his line when another in traction passes him. In ideal conditions, in a normal circuit, it is really dangerous, and there we were on a partially damp track. He came towards me. A little and pushed me into that wet part … ”
Bottas replied that he had a different view of collision. “The path is narrow and there was only a dry line. He still decided to try to overtake. There was room for two cars, but he lost control and hit me.”
Mercedes director Toto Wolf also agreed with his driver, stating that Russell is a spare driver for Mercedes. “George shouldn’t have attempted that pass. It had risks, while the other car was a Mercedes. In developing a young pilot, one should not forget the worldview, as well as [Russell] We’ll have a lot of lessons to learn from all of this, I think. ”
Seventh outing … then the eighth
In seventh place after an impressive race in tough conditions, Lance Stroll is finally ranked eighth in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Al-Kindi was fined five seconds for illegally exceeding 11e Frenchman Pierre Gasly, the same guy behind him at the end of the race who used his penalty kick to get ahead of him in the standings.
A somewhat disappointing result, although Stroll and Aston Martin collected their first points of the season. “It was a good race, with some exciting fights,” al-Kindy said after the race, without even knowing he would be punished.
“I had a lot of fun on the track and collected some good points. The team worked hard to solve technical issues [freins et boîte de vitesses] It bothered us all day, but we stuck to the end. The car was more efficient this weekend, but we still have a lot of work to do to bridge the gap with the teams that lie ahead now. ”
The day was even tougher for Stroll’s fellow Sebastian Vettel, who was slow to find his mark at Aston Martin and preferred to return to the garage two laps from the end.