Max Verstappen ends Italian curse, wins Emilia Romagna GP

Quick start, overtake on Hamilton gives Dutch driver 11th career Formula 1 victory, 1st podium in Italy

By Marcus Rebelo

Verstappen, who was forced to retire in Monza, Mugello and Imola in 2020, earned his first Italian podium on Sunday (Photo: Red Bull/Twitter)

Max Verstappen took the lead to start and calmly raced to win the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the historic Imola circuit. Verstappen started the race on the second row in P3 behind his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton, who extended his Formula 1 record on Saturday to line up on pole for the 99th time in his F1 career.

The Dutch driver launched a perfect start to overtake Perez and Hamilton and only briefly gave the lead back to his championship rival when he pitted a lap earlier to switch from intermediate tyres to medium on lap 27. Already tested by the unique challenge that is Imola, wet conditions to start the second race of the F1 2021 season provided an added element of difficulty for the drivers.

Verstappen had yet to earn an Italian podium until Sunday. In Monza, Mugello and Imola last season, Verstappen was forced to retire in each race.

Despite the 11th F1 victory of his career, Verstappen now trails Hamilton by just one point in the driver standings. Hamilton, who won the season-opener in Bahrain, climbed back from P8 to finish second after a lock up mistake sent the British driver into the gravel on lap 31. The seven-time world champion has not trailed in the Drivers’ Championship since July 2018 in the German Grand Prix.

Lando Norris, who had his exceptional lap time deleted in the final moments of qualifying for exceeding track limits, went from P7 to finish third for McLaren. The drive earned Norris the fan-vote for driver of the day.

Bottas and Russell bring out the red flag

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and George Russell came together on lap 33 in a terrifying accident. Both drivers were unharmed, but Russell immediately confronted Bottas on-track. Post race, both drivers had different viewpoints on the collision.

“I asked him if he was trying to kill us both,” said Russell, to Sky Sports F1 following the incident. “I’m fighting for P9, a P9 for him is absolutely nothing. Almost meaningless. He did a move that you would do if you’re fighting for victory on the last lap of the race. It begs the question why he would do that for P9. Perhaps if it was another driver, he wouldn’t have. So that’s what went through my mind.”

The Finn responded to the Williams driver after the crash.

“From the replays I saw, I always left space for two cars to be there,” said Bottas. “But he obviously lost it and hit me, and that was game over. I don’t know what he was on about, because it was clearly his mistake.

“So I’m not happy with him. But that’s how it is.”

The incident between Bottas and the Williams driver brought a red flag to allow marshals to clear the track and forced the race into a rolling restart.

In the points, see the stewards

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc started and finished the race in P4, with his teammate Carlos Sainz right behind in fifth after P11 on Saturday in qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo started and finished P6 for McLaren, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who suffered at the beginning with AlphaTauri’s decision to have the French driver start on wet tyres. Gasly dropped to P17 before he secured a points finish.

Montreal’s Lance Stroll crossed the line ahead of Gasly, but was assessed a five-second time penalty post-race for an illegal overtake and dropped to P8.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line in P9 after he started P16, but received a 30-second time penalty following the race for an infringement behind the Safety Car.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who originally picked up the team’s first championship point of the season, was joined in the points with teammate Fernando Alonso, who moved up to finish P10. The two-time world champion earns the first point of his F1 comeback. Alonso left McLaren and the sport in 2018.

Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi had his Emilia Romagna Grand Prix end early on Lap 2 after the Williams driver spun, then rejoined the track and collided with Haas’ Nikita Mazepin to bring out the first Safety Car of the race.

Check out the full race classification below:

See also:

2021 Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championship Standings

Marcus Rebelo

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Marcus Rebelo attended York University for his undergraduate degree before he completed his postgraduate studies in sports journalism at Centennial College. His first Formula 1 memories were of Michael Schumacher dominating the sport with Ferrari. In addition to, Rebelo works as an associate producer with CBC Sports and has covered many events both domestic and international that include IndyCar, UFC and the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, England.