With the dust just about settling on a thrilling Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, The Race’s writers have picked out the winners and losers from the second round of the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton carried on where they left off in Bahrain, with a stunning dice for the lead in the first half of the race. This time it was Verstappen who emerged as the victor, but he was far from the only jubilant driver when the chequered flag fell.
For others, there will be plenty of soul-searching going on before the next round at Portimao in two weeks’ time. Our writers sort the good from the bad after an action-packed weekend.
Verstappen’s win was nowhere near as comfortable as the winning margin suggested, and though there were moments of brilliance – the overtake on Hamilton or the first lap on slicks that allowed him to capitalise on Hamilton’s slow stop – there was also that huge error right before the final restart.
But a win’s a win, and though he and Red Bull will feel irked about seeing Hamilton recover so many points from a lap down, the team will also feel encouraged about seeing him initially buckle under the pressure of this genuine title race.
Hamilton’s mistake amid the chase was a big one, and not the kind we see very often from a driver who often seems so metronomic and almost devoid of weaknesses. This was a weakness on display, a big error – and Verstappen will believe he can draw out more as the season goes on. – Val Khorounzhiy
There’s maybe a tiny, tiny element of ‘loser’ about Hamilton’s day given he was beaten to a race win by his championship rival, outmuscled by him on the first lap and made an error that showed an unusually vulnerable side to his driving too.
But thanks to a little help from fate plus an efficient recovery drive, Hamilton’s Emilia Romagna GP is more about what he salvaged than what he lost.
He still got back to second, largely because the red flag cancelled out the fact he’d gone a lap down, he still leads the championship, and Mercedes now looks closer to Red Bull on pace than it did in Bahrain.
That’s a decent set of things to leave Imola with. A lot better than what he was facing during his never-ending struggle to get out of the Tosa gravel. – Matt Beer
There’s no way Lando Norris feels like he’s let McLaren down today.
Norris was very downcast after his minor misjudgement in qualifying meant a P3 lap – on merit – was deleted and he was dropped to seventh.
But he atoned for that beautifully in the grand prix with a mature drive that earned a deserved second career podium finish.
McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo deserve credit for the decision (and compliance) over swapping their cars when Norris looked so fast early on.
But stealing second from Charles Leclerc, holding off Lewis Hamilton for as long as he did, and nailing down the podium was all Norris. – Scott Mitchell
While there was no podium finish on home soil, Ferrari must be pleased to get two cars inside the top five for the first time since Turkey last year.
Charles Leclerc was a genuine threat to Hamilton in the early stages of the race – despite going off into the gravel on the formation lap – but he didn’t quite have enough to prevent Norris from pipping him to the final place on the podium when the race resumed post-red flag.
Carlos Sainz Jr showed impressive pace in the opening stages of the race but by his own admission – “fuck me, how many mistakes am I going to do?” – he went off the track far too much.
He still managed to keep his calm and his errors weren’t as costly as those made by the likes of Sergio Perez. By the end of the race, he was a match for Leclerc and he was able to net a solid top-five result in only his second race for Ferrari, which managed to outpoint Mercedes this weekend. – Josh Suttill
This was a vintage Raikkonen drive that (provisionally) delivered his and Alfa Romeo’s first points of the year – and the quality of it keeps him in our winners section even though the officials have now demoted to him.
The Finn managed to haul himself into eighth position under the red flag, having kept tabs with both Valtteri Bottas and George Russell for the majority of the race.
When the race restarted following the red flag, Raikkonen inevitably lost a position to Hamilton but then only conceded to Gasly, and this – coupled with Perez’s off – left the 41-year-old Finn in ninth place.
He had a string of faster cars behind him but on a weekend where Alfa looked the ninth quickest team, he appeared to have bagged two vital points against the odds while the Williams and Haas drivers lost their heads – although the stewards’ investigation into his rolling race restart conduct later took the score away. – JS
At the moment it looks like Valtteri Bottas has some right to be annoyed at George Russell, even if their scary crash goes down as a racing incident. But he shouldn’t have been anywhere near it in the first place.
A miserable qualifying session gave way to a miserable race and Bottas being attacked by a Williams reflects more poorly on his performance than any role in the contact.
After a muted third in the season opener and a non-score here, even F1’s planned record-length season doesn’t seem like enough to take Bottas’s title aspirations seriously.
These aspirations have taken an enormous blow today. – SM
Is hero to zero a little harsh? Maybe, but the star of qualifying did not deliver in the race. He fell to third at the start and that soon became fourth when he made the first of numerous mistakes.
One of the most costly errors came behind the safety car when he overtook two cars that he lost positions to when he went off the track. Had he simply given the places back he’d have avoided the 10-second penalty.
But that wasn’t what compromised Perez’s race as the red flag negated the majority of the damage done by the penalty. Instead of using the opportunity to turn fourth place into what should have been a comfortable 1-2 for Red Bull, Perez spun and fell to 14th.
Clearly frustrated, he danced with the gravel on a couple more occasions and could only progress to 13th place, frustratingly less than three seconds behind ninth-place Raikkonen. – JS
Imola was supposed to be one of Williams’s best opportunities to score in a season that it’s deliberately weighted towards particular tracks given its aero philosophy.
When both its cars reached Q2 and then the race day weather opened the door for some creative underdog heroics, that aim looked very achievable.
Instead it ended the day with zero points and two massively damaged cars. Less of a blow than it would’ve been in the cash-strapped, short-on-spares days of not many months ago, but still incredibly painful.
And while Russell might think very differently, he has to shoulder half the blame for his massive accident with Bottas at the very least.
As for Nicholas Latifi, he looked frankly out of his depth as that rushed recovery sent him into the wall via Nikita Mazepin’s Haas. – MB
ALONSO & VETTEL
At least Alonso had looked racey and aggressive in Bahrain. At Imola, he was off the pace in qualifying, all over the place not only in the race but even before it with his trip into the barriers on the reconnaissance lap.
Vettel’s start to life at Aston Martin somehow manages to look even worse. Alonso has managed to show some pace in among all the things that have gone horribly wrong and he’s now inherited a point. For Vettel, there hasn’t even been a flash of speed amid the misery.
For genuine F1 legends with six titles between them, they’re spending too much time trailing their team-mates or off the road. – MB
Another event with tremendous promise has gone begging.
Rookie Yuki Tsunoda cost his team dearly with his error in qualifying and a mistake befitting his inexperienced status at the restart, passing Hamilton then immediately spinning.
The team put Pierre Gasly on a hiding to nothing by starting him on wets with almost everyone else on intermediates and he never looked like salvaging much from there.
A home race to forget for AlphaTauri, which is squandering a seriously fast car. – SM