Max Verstappen cruised to a dominant victory at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton recovered from a mistake to finish second ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen got a great start in damp conditions to dive up the inside of Tamburello and held the lead throughout the race, except for lap 28 as he pitted.
Hamilton meanwhile failed to overcut Verstappen during his stop on lap 29 and made a mistake two laps later, running wide at Tosa into the barriers and dropped down the order as he recovered to the pits.
Lap 32 saw Valtteri Bottas and George Russell collide at high speed on entry to Tamburello, shredding debris across the corner and run-off area which forced stewards to red flag the race for 27 minutes and eventually judged the clash as a racing incident.
Once the race resumed, Verstappen raced away to a comfortable win as Hamilton benefitted from spins for Kimi Raikkonen and Yuki Tsunoda before reeling off six cars to finish second and retain the championship lead with the point for fastest lap of 1m 16.702.
Norris found himself second on the restart after quickly clearing Charles Leclerc but eventually had to settle for third, which coincidentally meant that Great Britain has now claimed 700 podiums in F1 history.
Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten at the checkered flag, although Stroll was demoted to eighth post-race via a five second time penalty for overtaking Gasly off track.
Raikkonen eventually received a 30s time penalty post-race which dropped him down to 13th and gifted Alpine’s Fernando Alonso the final point.
Hamilton now leads the championship with 44 points to Verstappen’s 43 as Norris sit 16 points behind the Dutchman in third with Leclerc and Bottas rounding out the top five.
Mercedes lead the constructors battle by seven points from Red Bull with McLaren, Ferrari and Aston Martin completing the top five.
Forecast rain showers arrived around a hour before lights out around the back sector, which caught several drivers out in a series of chaotic outlaps on the way to the grid with the rain eventually drenching the entire circuit.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso suffered a crash at Tosa which necessitated a front nose change, whilst Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas suffered a rear puncture on his way to the grid.
Aston Martin experienced rear brake issues for both drivers as Lance Stroll’s brakes were ablaze as he trundled through the pit-lane, whilst Sebastian Vettel had smoke smouldering out of his rear brakes which eventually forced him to start from the pit lane.
Gasly, Ocon, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin opted to start on the wet tyres, whilst Charles Leclerc survived a spin at Acque Minerali on the formation lap to recover to start fourth.
At lights out, Hamilton made a clean start but Verstappen dived up the inside to claim the lead into Tamburello, forcing his title rival across the kerbs damaging his Mercedes bodywork.
Further back, Leclerc passed Perez for third after the Mexican ran wide out of Variante Alta for third.
Nicholas Latifi however didn’t even reach Variante Alta after spinning at Acque Minerali and as he recovered, he clipped the front left of Mazepin to send him smashing into the barriers and out of the race but unharmed as the safety car was deployed.
Once the safety car was withdrawn, Verstappen built up a five second lead over Hamilton until lap 23, as the Brit quickly reduced the gap by 3.3s across the following four laps which gifted him the lead when Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 27.
Hamilton however failed to produce the overcut as a slow pit stop as he pitted a lap later, dropping him behind Verstappen and eventually into the barriers at Tosa on lap 31 but he recovered to ninth at the time of the red flag albeit a lap down.
Further back, Norris found himself ninth at the first restart but quickly recovered positions and forced McLaren to instruct Ricciardo to swap positions on lap 17, although the Aussie tried to fight him off until conceding position on the run to Piratella.
Gasly’s decision to start on the wet tyres proved incorrect as he rapidly tumbled down the order from sixth on lap nine to 15th by the time he pitted on lap 15, thereafter spending next 18 laps a lap down.
Lap 32 however saw Russell and Bottas collide in a high-speed smash at Tamburello as the Brit tried to pass around the outside, only to tap his right tyres onto the wet grass and ultimately sent him veering at full speed into Bottas’ Mercedes as he spun to send both out of this race.
Damage consequently was left strewn across the track and stewards were forced to red flag the race on lap 34 for 27 minutes to allow marshals to safety clear the track and remove both cars.
As the field headed back out for a rolling start, Hamilton inherited eighth after Raikkonen spun at Variante Villeneuve, dropping the Finnish driver to tenth behind the Brit and Tsunoda.
Up front, Verstappen got wide on the inside of Rivazza after making a mistake on the throttle but recovered to maintain the lead at the rolling start, before proceeding to cruise to victory unchallenged.
Norris took the restart on soft tyres which allowed him to quickly clear Leclerc for second whilst Tsunoda spun at Tamburello, giving Hamilton eighth after initially passing him.
On lap 38, Perez spun at Variante Villeneuve to drop him from fourth to 14th and the Mexican could only recover to 12th at the flag.
Hamilton swiftly reeled in and passed Stroll, Ricciardo, Sainz and Leclerc by lap 55 but was made to work for second by Norris who parked his car firmly through the middle of Tamburello.
Norris’ efforts eventually proved in vain as Hamilton swept around the outside to seal second on lap 60, as the young McLaren driver clung on for third ahead of Leclerc and Sainz.
Verstappen at the checkered flag won ahead of Hamilton by exactly 22s, with Norris just 1.702s behind his compatriot.
Speaking post-race on his victory, Verstappen admitted that he was “surprised” with his start in “challenging” damp conditions but ultimately put his win down to the correct timing of his pit stop.
The 23 year-old however is aware that he cannot afford to rest on his laurels, saying; “We still have to work hard to improve because it’s very close, but for now I’m very happy with the result.”
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||63||2h 02m 34.598|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||63||+ 22.000|
|3||Lando Norris||McLaren||63||+ 23.702|
|4||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||63||+ 25.579|
|5||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||63||+ 27.036|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||63||+ 51.220|
|7||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||63||+ 52.818|
|8||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||63||+ 56.909|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||63||+ 65.704|
|10||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||63||+ 66.561|
|11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||63||+ 67.151|
|12||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||63||+ 73.184|
|13||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||63||+ 94.773|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||62||+ 1 Lap|
|15||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||61||Gearbox|
|16||Mick Schumacher||Haas||61||+ 2 Laps|
|17||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||61||+ 2 Laps|