Max Verstappen wins first career race in Italy at Imola

After three weeks off, Formula 1 returned to racing for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. In a chaotic and damp race, Max Verstappen picked up his first career win in Italy as he dominated despite the tricky track.

Showers were prevalent throughout the day in Imola leading up to the start of the race, dampening the track and causing a spray of water every time the cars were on the track. Aston Martin suffered issues in the pre-race preparations as Lance Stroll’s brakes were on fire and Sebastian Vettel’s car was not ready to start the race, forcing him to start from the pit lane.

Despite Charles Leclerc spinning on the formation lap, the other 19 cars, aside from Vettel, made it to the start of the race. The opening lap saw Verstappen pass his teammate, Sergio Perez, for second place and immediately pushed his way up to the front. As Verstappen passed Hamilton for the lead, the two cars made contact, causing Hamilton to suffer front wing damage.

Nicolas Latifi, who started 14th after getting out of Q1 on Saturday, was turned by Nikita Mazepin and crashed into the barrier, bringing out the safety car. During the safety car, Perez slid off the track, then overtook Daniel Ricciardo and Leclerc. Perez doing this cost him dearly as he suffered a 10-second time penalty, which he served on pit lane on lap 29.

Verstappen and Hamilton dueled once again after the safety car as Hamilton attempted to pass Verstappen, but could not finish the job as Verstappen held his ground and built a sizable lead over his rival.

With the damp track, several drivers, including Pierre Gasly, took wet tires while most other drivers took intermediate tires. The gamble did not pay off as his pace dropped considerably, plummeting him toward the bottom of the starting grid.

On lap 28, Verstappen pitted and Hamilton went in a lap later to undercut Verstappen. However, Hamilton’s pit stop was slow and Verstappen was able to recycled back to the lead.

As Hamilton attempted to chase down Verstappen, he spun off the track and into the wall. He was just able to back his way up into the track and get into pit lane. He came out in ninth place.

On lap 32, George Russell tried to overtake Valtteri Bottas for ninth place, but ended up crashing hard into Bottas. The damage was severe for both cars, bringing out a red flag.

The race resumed on a rolling start. Lando Norris passed Leclerc for second place behind Verstappen, who spun during the rolling lap but managed to get his car back on the track. Perez spun off the track on lap 38, pushing him back down to 14th place, finishing 12th. This benefitted Ferrari as Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ran in third and fourth place.

Hamilton caught a break with the red flag as he gained his lap back and was able to work his way through the midfield while dropping the fastest laps of the race. Hamilton worked his way up into second place at the end of the race, picking up the fastest lap of the race on lap 60. Verstappen won by over 20 seconds but with Hamilton’s fastest lap, Hamilton is one point ahead of Verstappen in the driver standings.

Norris finished in third place, his first podium finish since the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix and only his second in his F1 career. With Hamilton and Norris on the podium, it marks 700 podiums for British drivers in the history of F1.

Ferrari picked up two top-five finishes on the day as Leclerc finished fourth and Sainz finished fifth after starting 11th. This is the highest combined finish Ferrari has had since finishing third and fourth at last season’s Turkish Grand Prix.

Ricciardo finished sixth and Stroll finished seventh. Despite faltering at the beginning of the race with wet tires, Gasly was able to work his way into eighth place, picking up his first points of the season.

Kimi Raikkonen finished ninth to pick up his first points of 2021 and Esteban Ocon rounds out the top 10 to pick up Alpine’s first F1 point.

Formula 1 will return in two weeks for the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao on May 2.

Race results:

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