This Sunday, Formula One ran the second round of the 2021 season in Italy at the Imola. On Saturday, Lewis Hamilton took pole position, but not without a fight. With a challenge by Lando Norris in the McLaren and both Red Bull cars qualifying 2 and 3, Hamilton was in for a hard-fought race.
Sunday came and so did the rain, while it only affected certain spots on the track, the inconsistent weather caused the team’s headache in terms of tire strategy, and also caused a chaotic pre-race. Aston Martin had breaks catching fire and Fernando Alonso in the Alpine went into the wall and sacrificed a front wing. Lance Strolls break fire required repair on the grid but the team was able to finish in time. The same cannot be said for his teammate however, the team did not finish his car in time, causing Seb to start from the pit lane while also gaining a 10-second stop and go for not having the wheels on in time.
The first lap of the race saw Max overtake Lewis for the lead, Lewis jumping a curb and causing front wing and floor damage to the Mercedes, but retaining second place. At the back of the grid, Nicholas Latifi in the Williams had a spin, but recovered, only to sin into the wall a few seconds later, causing the first safety car of the race. During this safety care period, Mick Schumacher in the Haas, lost it on the slick track and lost a front wing at the pit exit, causing a pit lane closure and extending the safety car period.
While the racing got going again, Max retained the lead on the restart, but Hamilton was fighting hard. While this happens the stewards laid a 10-second penalty on Perez for overtaking under the safety car after he spun off and lost places, he overtook those places, which is not allowed under safety cars. In the midfield, Gasly was falling hard due to him still being on full wet tires.
This stage in the race saw the grid trying to gauge whether to switch to slick tires or stick with the inters due to the inconsistent track conditions. With Riccardo in front, McLaren was looking to make a push towards the front, they switched their drivers putting Norris in front and let him have a crack at the top of the field, not something Riccardo would have wanted but in the end paid off for the team.
Verstappen then pits for medium slick tires, giving Hamilton the lead in the race, but he had yet to pit. On the next lap Hamilton is told to box, but a slow stop by Mercedes causes him to lose the lead and rejoin the track in second place. When he rounds Tosa corner, he lost grip and goes into the gravel, but keeps his head clean and maneuvers his way onto the track and into the pits, but he is far down the running order.
Meanwhile, while fighting for 9th, Bottas in the Mercedes and Russell in the Williams have a massive shunt, ending both of their races and bringing out the safety car and eventually the red flag. Now, while this coming together is dramatic as hell and is without a doubt going to have an entire Drive to Survive episode dedicated to it, I don’t believe one person is at fault. They both are, Bottas closed the door a bit too much and Russell overreacted and slipped on the wet grass, an unfortunate incident but the blame isn’t on anyone driver in the end.
This incident brought out the red flag and the remaining members of the grid went to the pits to regroup. This red flag becomes a blessing for many drivers, most so Lewis Hamilton, who at the point of the incident was a lap down after his incident. Because of red flag conditions, all lapped cars can un-lap themselves and get even with everyone for the safety car restart.
At the restart, Max kept the lead despite a spin behind the safety car with Norris and Leclerc trailing behind. Starting in 8th place, Hamilton was tearing his way through the field as Hamilton does and throwing together some absolutely rapid laps.
Near the end of the race, Seb Vettel retires for break issues, ending an atrocious weekend for the 4 times World Champion. At the top of the grid, Hamilton continues his crusade past Norris into second leaving the McLaren the third step on the podium, the wall while Verstappen sails to a convincing victory.
Overall, Imola left us with an exciting and unpredictable race, most definitely helped by the changeable conditions. Hopefully, this iconic circuit can wiggle its way back on the calendar for years to come, and continue to provide us with interesting old-school racing.