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2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Blog

Water, water, everywhere. That is what the teams found themselves faced with before the start of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. With no rain in the forecast, this will have taken many by surprise. Conditions proved treacherous and it made for an incident packed race.

Red Bull’s like the wet don’t they? Max Verstappen certainly does. He was third on the grid but glided gracefully off the start and, alongside teammate Sergio Perez, was level with pole sitter Lewis Hamilton by the first turn. Hamilton tried to hold his position, but he clipped wheels with Verstappen and bounced over the kerb, damaging his front wing in the process. Max did not need a second invitation and quickly streaked into a 5-second lead.

Things came to a stop shortly afterwards though as Nicholas Lafifi slammed into a wall at the exit of Acque Minarali and the safety car was deployed. The Williams driver was thankfully ok, but racing was delayed further when Mick Schumacher spun his Haas trying to warm up the tyres. He collided with a wall near the exit of the pit lane, losing his front wing in the process. A slight rookie mistake, yes, but this emphasises how difficult conditions were.

Racing got back underway and the consensus was that this would be a one-stop race. So it proved, with most drivers switching to dry tyres just before the halfway point. After the pitstops Verstappen still held a 5-second lead over Hamilton but traffic slowed him down and Lewis closed the gap to 3-seconds. If anything, the Mercedes looked the quicker of the two cars and neutral fans will have been drooling at the thought of another duel to the finish line. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as Hamilton misjudged overtaking a Williams and slid off the track. His race looked to be run as he lost over a lap with his car beached in a gravel trap.

Luck was on Lewis’ side, however, because he did manage to get his car going again and then on the very next lap George Russell collided with Valtteri Bottas. The collision caused a huge shunt, sending both cars spinning off and debris strewn all over the track and causing the Grand Prix to be red flagged.

Let’s just pause for a moment here. There are all sorts of questions about how the race got to this point. Why was Bottas’ Mercedes being overtaken by a Williams whilst battling for ninth place? Who was at fault for the collision? How should Toto Wolff handle the two drivers involved? Bottas clearly believed that Russell was the guilty party, giving the young Brit the middle finger as he approached his car. For what it is worth, we tend to agree, but that will be of little comfort to Bottas who surely feels his seat is under threat from the very same driver who took him out of the race. It should also be noted that the stewards investigated the incident after the race and decided to take no further action.

Back to the Grand Prix, and as the race was restarted Verstappen quickly put ground between himself and the pack. It was a case of damage limitation now for Lewis Hamilton. He did an excellent job passing Stroll, Ricciardo, Sainz and Leclerc to take third place with seven laps to go. Lando Norris had driven a superb race to be holding second spot. He tried valiantly to fend off the Mercedes but with fading tyres he had little chance and in the end he had to settle for third. Take nothing away from McLaren though, this was a great result. Andreas Seidl summed up their feelings saying: “A podium for Lando is a great reward for the whole team, and the hard work that’s gone in here at the track and back at the factory”.

Mercedes were less pleased. Andrew Shovlin said afterwards: “On lap 31 it was difficult imagine how things could get any worse. We had Lewis stuck in the gravel with a broken wing and Valtteri out with a massive amount of damage. So, leaving here still in the lead of both championships is quite a relief and I suppose we should be grateful for that.”

For neutral fans though, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix gave us everything that we could have wished for. An action-packed race, full of twists and turns, plus what seems to be the start of a genuinely close title race. It has certainly whetted the appetite for more and F1 returns to Portimão in two weeks’ time for the Portuguese Grand Prix. Don’t miss it!