VERSTAPPEN WINS IN IMOLA
Max Verstappen wins in tricky conditions at Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix for his 11th career victory. Verstappen's closest rival Lewis Hamilton finished in second and Lando Norris matches his best career finish with third place - first achieved at the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix.
The drama and action started from the word "go" with action on the formation lap once again with Leclerc (Ferrari) spinning but regaining his position. The race started wet after that rain came just 20 minutes before the start so all but a few drivers started on the green wall intermediates with one or two starting on the wets.
Lap one had all the drama you needed with Verstappen and Hamilton making slight contact into the first couple of corners damaging the Mercedes front wing endplate as Max (Red Bull) took the lead of the race. It wasn't the start Latifi (Williams) would have wanted after getting a career best starting position of 14th as he made contact with Mazepin (Haas) going into the wall with a large amount of speed causing a Safety Car. We also saw Sainz go wide but keep his position.
The Safety Car period lasted from lap two till lap six and in that time on lap four Mick Schumacher (Haas) spun at the pit exit loosing his front wing having to go round the whole track with a nose on his car but his crash meant the pit lane was shut so he then had to go round again and eventually on lap six he could pit for a new wing and some fresh intermediate tyres.
As the racing got underway we were treated to some fantastic fighting for the midfield as Gasly (AlphaTauri) kept the slower wet tyres on as he fought to stay in sixth in a battle with Sainz (Ferrari) and Stroll (Aston Martin). On lap 11 we saw the Ferrari of Sainz take a trip to the gravel but the Spaniard kept it going and kept position.
During the Safety Car period Perez (Red Bull) went wide into the gravel at which point he was passed by two cars but then flew past them but as you are not allowed to overtake under Safety Car conditions the Mexican driver was given a 10 second stop-go penalty. Which he would eventually serve on lap 29.
Four laps later (lap 15) Sainz made another trip to the gravel - once again keeping position.
On lap 22 Aston Martin pits Sebastian Vettel for the dry tyres - the first driver to pit for the dries in the ever changing conditions. Vettel comes out and is given a 10 second stop-go penalty after his wheels had not been fitted with five minutes before the race after both Aston Martin cars had their brakes on fire before the race - two laps later (lap 24) Vettel serves his penalty and loses around 34 seconds in total.
Then on lap 27 Verstappen pits from the lead - of course now Hamilton leads and pits the next lap but had a slow stop having to let a car through and the front right tyre took a little too long to go on - it was four seconds in the pit for Lewis which handed back the lead to the Red Bull of Verstappen.
31 laps in Bottas' (Mercedes) weekend went from bad to worse as he was lapped by Max and Lewis down in 9th place. After lapping his teammate Hamilton attempts to pass another back marker but doesn't make it and ends up in the gravel and the barrier knocking his front wing but keeps it going and rejoins in ninth.
And it didn't get much better just a lap later (32) as he (Bottas) made contact with the Williams of George Russell - making huge impact taking both cars out of the race and both drivers showed their frustration when Russell marched over to Bottas immediately after getting out of his car. The Safety Car was of coursed deployed and then on lap 34 the race was red flagged.
After a stop of around half an hour we got back racing with a rolling start behind the Safety Car with Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) spinning round and Verstappen almost losing it on the restart.
Norris managed to make a move passed the Ferrari of Leclerc to gain second place and Perez in fourth dips a tyre into the wet part of the track dropping him from fourth to 14th - bringing up the question of is that second Red Bull seat really cursed?
By lap 55 Hamilton is back on the podium after passing Leclerc for third and just five laps later of lap 60 Hamilton makes it into P2 passing Norris. And on the final lap (63) Vettel retires with some internal issues.
The next race is the Portuguese Grand Prix.