Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Imola, 2021

Hamilton lucky to come off second best after latest duel with Verstappen

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix review

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When Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff was staring at his monitors on lap 32 of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in disbelief with one of his cars destroyed in the gravel and the other limping to the pits with a broken front wing, you could forgive him for thinking that his team would leave the Imola circuit without a single championship point for their weekend’s efforts.

By the time the chequered flag flew, Mercedes had indeed lost the race to Red Bull – but they had managed to somehow dodge a major early blow in their constructors championship battle, and Lewis Hamilton’s title fight with Max Verstappen.

Just two races into this 23-race 2021 Formula 1 season, Hamilton’s great escape could end up taking on even more significance if this really is to be the year-long showdown between the sport’s two current heavyweights.

Having dominated the opening weekend in Bahrain – except for the one day that mattered most – Verstappen and Red Bull were out for revenge on Mercedes when they arrived at the Autodromo Enzo E Dino Ferrari in the quaint northern Italian town of Imola.

Returning to the early-spring setting familiar from decades of San Marino grands prix, the tortuously titled Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio Del Made In Italy E Dell’emilia Romagna 2021 was held in the unseasonably cooler temperatures seen across the European continent last weekend.

Alonso damaged his car before the race started
The characteristics and climate of the circuit appeared to have better suited the Mercedes than Sakhir had – something best demonstrated by Hamilton securing his 99th career pole position during the closest qualifying session in recent memory.

But Hamilton’s Saturday success came as a surprise to him and engineer Peter Bonnington. Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff was under no illusions as to who was the favourite for Sunday. “If you one-for-one compare the laps to Red Bull, Max, without the mistake, would have been on solidly on pole,” he said.

For the first time in a long time, the first Red Bull behind the pole-sitting Mercedes belonged not to Verstappen, but his team mate. Sergio Perez had been audibly frustrated to miss out on his first career pole position by less than half a tenth of a second, but at least fulfilled his purpose by providing Red Bull with a genuine two-pronged attack to Hamilton for the first time since Daniel Ricciardo left the team.

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The split strategy of the chasing Red Bulls would have given Mercedes a headache – until just 45 minutes before lights out, when the 60 percent chance of rain for the race quite rapidly grew to 100 percent. Heavy rain drenched the circuit – or at least part of it. The run from Tamburello to Tosa was saturated.

Hamilton and Verstappen went wheel-to-wheel at the start
On a tentative reconnaissance lap on the intermediate tyres, Fernando Alonso learned just how little grip there was at the tight Tosa corner, slipping off the track and into gently into the barriers. Luckily for Alpine, Alonso was spared the embarrassment of being eliminated from the race before it had even began, but had to pay the price of a new front wing as penance.

The track was thoroughly soaked around most of its 4.9 kilometres, but with only light rain in the air by the time the drivers pulled off the grid for the formation lap, the vast majority opted for the intermediate tyres.

Charles Leclerc may have briefly questioned the wisdom of that decision when he spun into the gravel at Acque Minerali, but the Ferrari driver was able to recover both his car and his grid position for the start of the race.

Facing a potential flanking from the Red Bulls behind him, Hamilton tried to make his W12 as wide as possible on the long run to Tamburello. But Verstappen’s traction was so great that he was up the inside of the Mercedes before they had reached the end of the pit lane.

With the inside line, Verstappen would have been forgiven for expecting Hamilton to yield into Tamburello, but the world champion refused to give way and hung on around the outside. Inevitably, Hamilton ran out of road and was forced to clatter over the savage sausage kerbs in the second part of the chicane, losing all momentum and dislodging fragments of black bodywork from his car. Somehow, Hamilton did not lose his second place to Perez behind.

As the field navigated through the spray and searched for what grip they could find, Nicholas Latifi emulated Leclerc’s formation lap spin at Acque Minerali, dropping him down the field. While he was able to continue, the Williams driver was seemingly unaware that Nikita Mazepin’s Haas was alongside him on the approach to Variante Alta and intruded into Mazepin’s personal space, earning him a swift trip into the barriers and a disappointing early retirement after one of Latifi’s strongest weekends of his F1 career to date.

The Safety Car was deployed to help clean up the debris as the drivers tried to keep what heat they could in their tyres.

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Perez demonstrated how easy it was to lose control by skidding off the track at Piratella, losing his place in the queue to Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly. But when Perez illegally reclaimed his fourth place from the pair after returning to the track, he immediately earned himself a 10-second time penalty (misreported elsewhere at the time, including on F1’s social media feeds, as a stop-go penalty) which effectively remove him from the equation at the front of the field.

Verstappen led the pack away at the restart on lap seven, with Hamilton in hot pursuit. The damage to his Mercedes wasn’t as bad as the team initially feared – once the broken footplate detached itself he was losing a couple of tenths per lap. But with the benefit of a clear track in front of him, Verstappen was able to easily pull a gap of three seconds to the Mercedes after just over a single lap of green flag racing.

McLaren swapped their drivers to unleash Norris’s pace
With no active rainfall, the long, slow process of drying the circuit began as the field began to rapidly spread out around the circuit.

Gasly, who had looked in top form all weekend in the dry, began to plummet down the field on his full wet tyres as those around him on intermediates enjoyed far more grip on the gradually drying surface. He would eventually make the switch to intermediates on lap 14.

As they so often do, Verstappen and Hamilton began trading fastest laps as they grew in confidence with the increasing grip offered by the damp asphalt.

Lando Norris was also finding good grip on the circuit, but was unable to make the most of it stuck behind McLaren team mate Daniel Ricciardo in sixth place. Norris made a few euphemistic remarks on the radio about how he might go quicker with a clear road ahead, which were interpreted as intended, and the team asked Ricciardo to let him by.

Wisely, Ricciardo not only complied but did so at the exit of Tosa rather than in the middle of the corner. Norris immediately disappeared into the horizon in pursuit of a potential podium.

Further back, Sebastian Vettel had endured a torrid start to his race. Both Aston Martins had overheating rear brakes on their reconnaissance laps and required attention on the grid. Vettel had to start from the pit lane, and to make matters worse his tyres were not re-fitted before the five minute warning, earning him a stop-go penalty.

Vettel tried to turn his fortunes around by being the first car to try medium dry tyres on lap 22. It was quickly apparent the call was a touch too soon, as Vettel’s lap times were seconds slower while he tried to bring them into an working window. Matters weren’t helped by the timing of his penalty, which Vettel felt came far too late, and obliged him to return to the pits where his tyres cooled further.

Eventually, the track conditions hit the sweet spot and Vettel set the fastest first sector of the day – prompting Red Bull to react and bring Verstappen in before Mercedes could beat them to it.

With Verstappen relinquishing the lead, Hamilton was told he had just a single lap to push to try and make up the deficit to the Red Bull. But Verstappen’s natural proficiency in low-grip conditions is no secret and it was little surprise to see him comfortably retain the lead of the race after Hamilton resumed also on the medium compound, aided by a slightly slow Mercedes pit stop. As there was no theoretical need for any further stops, it seemed that Hamilton would have to find a way past on-track if he was to deny Verstappen a first win of the season.

By lap 30, all the field had made the switch to slicks. While the visible dry racing life offered plentiful grip, the dark patches still present offline lay in waiting for any ill-judged move that strayed onto them. Surprisingly, Hamilton was among the first to fall foul to such a simple yet costly mistake.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Imola, 2021
Hamilton ploughed the gravel at Tosa…
Coming to lap George Russell’s Williams on lap 31, Hamilton took to the inside under braking for Tosa and had to try and get his car slowed down enough on the dark, damp surface. But he could not. In a scene reminiscent of that dark day in China during his rookie season, Hamilton skidded helplessly into the gravel before running out of room to turn the car safely out again and kissing the barrier.

For what felt like an eternity, Hamilton tried to figure out a route of recovery back onto the circuit as any chance of victory evaporated like the steam from his aching front tyres. Eventually, he was able to awkwardly – but legally – reverse his Mercedes back out onto dry ground and resume, albeit with his front wing hanging off.

Russell later admitted he could have chosen a better place to let the Mercedes by. But Hamilton accepted responsibility for the error. “I guess I was in a bit too much of a hurry to get by everyone,” he said.

“It just wouldn’t go into reverse so I was holding the reverse button and it took forever to engage. And when I was reversing, I was like I’ve just got to keep going backwards and work my way out in reverse and if I hadn’t done that I would probably still have been there now so I’m grateful for it.”

Hamilton’s afternoon wasn’t over. But the time lost was going to put him out of contention for all but the lowest points places, clearing the way for Verstappen to take the championship lead for the first time ever.

…and had to reverse back out
Then, suddenly, all eyes were on Tamburello, and the wreckage of the other Mercedes and Russell’s Williams.

The pair had been involved in a massive accident, turning the approach to the first chicane into a frightening scene of destruction. In its former, flat-out guise, this section of track has seen many violent accidents over the decades, including F1’s most notorious crash. Given its history, it was a relief to see both drivers climbing from their cars unaided.

As the blame game began between two drivers whose destinies have been on a collision course for some time, the race was red-flagged to allow for an extensive clean-up operation.

Hamilton, a lap down by the time he had rejoined with a new front wing, was suddenly handed a lifeline. Rather than languishing in 10th without a hope of clawing back solid points, he instead would have everyone who had passed him neatly lined up in a row to pick off one by one.

At the end of the lengthy delay, Verstappen led the field back out onto the circuit for the single formation lap before the restart. Tyre temperature, always important, would be critical for this restart to the race and Verstappen almost cost himself everything with a lazy half-spin onto the kerb at the first Rivazza.

Leclerc, in second, briefly thought he should pass the Red Bull, then chose not to, a decision which surprised Norris, now third. With the Red Bull team’s hearts firmly in their mouths, Verstappen was able to collect his car and himself before charging over the finish line to resume proceedings.

Raikkonen paid a high price for his error
Norris, who had switched to soft tyres, seized his opportunity and pounced on Leclerc’s medium-shod Ferrari. The McLaren swept around the outside of the Ferrari into Tamburello before turning his sights on trying to challenge Verstappen for the lead.

Hamilton’s challenge to recover through the field had been made easier by Kimi Raikkonen, who spun his Alfa Romeo at Tamburello, losing position to Hamilton and Yuki Tsunoda. The Alfa Romeo did not reclaim his position as he should have done, earning a 30 second post-race penalty. Given what had happened to Perez earlier, the stewards admitted this area to the regulations lacked consistency.

AlphaTauri rookie Tsunoda was desperate to make amends for ruining his weekend after wrecking his car early in qualifying and figured that the best way to make up for that would be to overtake a seven-time world champion at the restart. For a moment, it looked like he had pulled off the bold endeavour, slipstreaming the Mercedes and diving up the inside into Tamburello.

But Tsunoda lost grip at the chicane and spun around in front of Hamilton, somehow avoiding contact and throwing away all the credit he would have earned. The rookie who starred in Bahrain described his Imola performance as “not acceptable”.

Perez, who had impressed so much on Saturday, saw his Sunday become even more frustrating when he lost the Red Bull at the tricky Villenueve chicane and spinning backwards into the gravel. He was able to continue, but was now down in 14th with all chance of decent points dashed.

With at least two positions generously handed to him by drivers ahead, Hamilton was afforded more time to pick his way through the cars in front and climb gradually back up the order. Despite their Mercedes power units, Lance Stroll and Ricciardo proved to be easy pickings, and were dispatched within a handful of laps. The Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz Jnr – running fourth despite two off-track moments earlier in the race – and Leclerc offered a stiffer challenge.

Hamilton salvaged second place by passing Norris
Hamilton eventually passed Sainz on lap 50, before chasing down Leclerc and using DRS to take the other Ferrari five laps later. After spending half a minute in the gravel trap earlier in the race and having lost a lap to Verstappen pitting for a new front wing, the idea that Hamilton was now on the podium must have been a distinctly irritating realisation for Red Bull.

Norris’s efforts to catch Verstappen out front had been futile, with the Red Bull driver comfortably able to pull away from the rest of the pack. With his career-best finishing position in Formula 1 in his sights, Norris fought hard to try and keep the looming Hamilton in his mirrors behind him – a task made no easier when Norris inadvertently caught his clutch paddle on his steering wheel with his knee in some of Imola’s tighter corners.

There was only so much within Norris’s power, however, and with four laps remaining, the Mercedes took advantage of the lengthened DRS zone for this weekend and drafted easily past the McLaren before the pair had even reached the braking zone for Tamburello.

And with that, the comeback was complete. Through sheer performance, skill and a healthy dose of luck, Hamilton was back behind Verstappen as if his heart-stopping moment at Tosa had never even happened.

As annoyed as Verstappen and Red Bull may have been at seeing their main rival back behind them, it would likely have paled in comparison to the satisfaction of comprehensively beating Mercedes on track and demonstrating that the road to an eighth consecutive world championship for the Silver Arrows would have to go through Red Bull first.

Verstappen crossed the line to claim his first victory of this young season and put the disappointment of Bahrain firmly behind him in one of the more dominant of his 11 career wins. But despite seeming in total control all day, the Red Bull driver claimed it was not as comfortable as it looked.

Jubilant Verstappen closed within a point of Hamilton
“It’s never easy a race like this,” said Verstappen. “It’s quite stressful out there to make the right calls.

“To be able to sit here now, two races in a row, where we were very, very competitive – that’s very promising, but no guarantees.”

For Hamilton, any disappointment at being beaten was overridden at relief for simply being able to take second place after his troubles at Tosa.

“It’s the first time I’ve made a mistake in a long time,” he said. “I’m really, really grateful that we got going again and to get some points for the team was really important today.”

With the second podium of his career, Norris was excited about how much promise McLaren had shown during the start of the season.

“It’s nice to be fighting these guys,” said Norris. “It’s nice to be there on merit and there on pure pace – and hopefully we can have some more in the future.”

Ferrari will have been satisfied to leave an Italian circuit with a solid points haul with Leclerc in fourth and Sainz fifth following a series of disasters during their three home races last season. Ricciardo accepted that sixth was as good as his pace deserved that afternoon, while Gasly and AlphaTauri would have been moderately satisfied with seventh after a penalty for Stroll having shown such strong pace in the early weekend.

Raikkonen had finished ninth on the road but his penalty promoted Esteban Ocon to ninth after a solid weekend, with team mate Alonso securing his first points finish of his comeback from retirement in tenth.

While one race may mean little over a 23-event calendar, the consequences of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix could be felt over the months to come.

Massive crash could have future consequences for Mercedes
With Hamilton and Verstappen trading victories to open the season and Red Bull looking like their hold the upper hand on pure pace in this early phase, Hamilton’s recovery to second could prove to be a vital piece of damage limitation as the championship battle unfolds.

In the first season ever with active cost cap restrictions, Toto Wolff was quick to point out that Bottas’s heavy crash could have consequences for Mercedes’ development programme for the W12 over this season. And in a year before such heavy technical regulation changes are introduced in 2022, it makes the question of how to spread resources between this year’s car and its inevitable successor that much more of a headache.

Not that it will be of too much concern to Red Bull, Verstappen, or indeed millions of Formula 1 fans across the globe who have been hoping to see Mercedes’ dominance under genuine threat for the first time in the V6 era.

The Portuguese Grand Prix cannot come soon enough.

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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64 comments on “Hamilton lucky to come off second best after latest duel with Verstappen”

  1. I think Hamilton had the pace in the dry to overtake #33 because Verstappen was really slow in the first sector, and had a low top speed. A blown opportunity by Mercedes. This Mercedes car looks like it has great low-drag top speed configuration in race trim compared to other seasons…

    1. It was an absolute rocket on the straights as Hamilton worked his way back up the field. Felt sorry for Lando when a car with “the same engine” shot past him with DRS and was cleanly ahead before the braking zone.

    2. The reason I’d imagine Verstappen was going slower to Lewis is because he was so firmly in the lead they didn’t need to stress. With 23 races this year any opportunity to put the car under as little stress as possible should and will be taken. Meanwhile, I imagine Lewis and Merc were pushing their unit to the limit.

      1. @aiii Exactly. Max was in a position of controlling his pace for maximum points, barring the fastest lap which I’m glad he didn’t risk, whereas for LH every car passed was more points for him.

    3. @krichelle Yes, I think that’s missing from the report. Hamilton was closing in on Verstappen at the end of the first stint, lost around 2 seconds in the pit stop (not really mentioned) and then started closing in on MV again, which was when he went off trying to lap Russell. It would have been good to see that battle actually pan out. However, Verstappen won the race with his great start and robust fending off of Hamilton, causing the latter damage (down to Hamilton not being cautious). I disagree with @aiii about Max going slower for a number of reasons: in wet weather maintaining a gap of 4-5 seconds is a good precaution in case you have a brief off and lose a few; likewise, in tricky conditions, drivers tend to prefer to find their rhythm and stick to it, especially to keep the tyres at an ideal temperature; and the fact Max opened up a sizeable gap at the end of the race, which backs the idea he was keeping his own best steady pace rather than conserving. Red Bull would want the win more than worrying about the rest of the season.

      1. @david-br I agree with @aiii and would say that ‘keeping his own best steady pace’ was indeed conserving and making sure he kept it between the ditches. Very tricky conditions as Max said and of course all would agree, which is why I so feel for these drivers when they have to go through this mayhem, including vicious crashes. But I do think Max had more in him if he had needed it if LH was actually tailing him. As it is it took time for LH to DRS by Leclerc and Norris for example, and they are no Max/RBR as we saw by the sizeable gap Max was able to put on them. It just didn’t seem like Max was risking anything in doing so though, no? Steady pace sure, but I think it would be safe to say Max and his team agreed that he needn’t risk too much by going full out. His 90% pace (my speculation) was plenty. His 100% pace would have well kept a charging LH behind if he’d needed it. He’d have had more tires in the end vs LH on his pushed tires. Imho of course.

        1. @robbie Max sounded fairly stressed out at the end of the first stint and Hamilton could have passed him had Mercedes made a better pit stop (which relative to Red Bull they never do). So I don’t get why they’d risk that scenario in the first stint on inters. Then in the second, on mediums, Hamilton was closing, though with both passing through backmarkers it was difficult to tell whether that was all down to Verstappen being more cautious, maybe, than Hamilton when lapping them. After the restart, yes, they probably weren’t pushing anyhow, and certainly Verstappen was never under threat from Hamilton, even if there had been another SC. But I was talking about the first half of the race really.

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            19th April 2021, 21:07

            @david-br A few factors at play and a too often overlooked psychological game. Lewis didn’t get a great start which pushed him into “make up for it” mode. Mercedes screwed up the pitstop again negating Lewis’s end of stint one pace advantage pushing him further into the “make up for it” mode. Then he made an error, which was for the first time since Hockenheim 2019 was not car or other driver related and completely his fault, which he was gracious enough to cop to. There’s only two things Lewis could have done better. Give up the place at the start as the damage, according to I think Shov, cost him 2 tenths per lap until he changed the wing after his crash, and taking more care with the backmarkers.

            Anyone who thinks Mercedes, Lewis and Toto are sandbagging needs to look at the factors that led to this uncharacteristic desperation. They genuinely believe they are slower than Redbull and are behaving like they need to fight every chance. I have for a while observed that if Redbull ever got close, those 3 to 5 tenths in the pitstop would screw Mercedes. It’s odd that the fundamental philosophy of that team, no complacency, has not lead to an improvement of their pedestrian 2.5 second stops which turn into 4 seconds with some regularity has never been addressed. Expect to see this area improved going forward!

            I have a background in accident and failure investigation. There is always causality behind the initial cause. Lewis was in a situation which forced an error because of situations that had occurred beforehand. In race trim under those race conditions and absent of damage and a screwed pitstop, he might have won. It is certainly possible given his superior tyre advantage towards the end of stints compared to Max, as noted by Horner. “They had better deg than us.” Redbull appear to be the cautious carefull “don’t screw this up” team and Mercedes have temporarily forgotten what won them 7 titles in a row. I don’t expect that dynamic to remain constant. Can’t wait for Portimao!

          2. @davewillisporter Good spot, the tyre degradation on inters was definitely a factor in play at the end of that stint. It could be that Verstappen eased off in the early race after pulling out an early advantage but that didn’t really help the Red Bull tyre degradation compared to Mercedes. As for the race start, you’re right, the Hamilton of previous seasons wouldn’t have fought that corner, he has always been aware of the race distance and winning through pace and strategy if he falls behind. A combination of Red Bull’s perceived faster pace, the difficulty in overtaking (not so difficult as he discovered) and the fact he feels he’ll be fighting one-to-one with Verstappen has clearly flipped his mindset. I actually think Hamilton prefers this more aggressive style, it’s why he seems animated this season, he does have an excuse not to be always playing safe. But both he and Verstappen are going to have to judge these moments very carefully if the close fight continues over the season because, as we saw, they are race-defining.

  2. Norris impressed may a lot this weekend. I already know he is good, but his depth of race craft and wheel to wheel positioning was just beautiful to watch. Ricciardo has a lot of work to do in that Mclaren if he doesn’t want to end up being a disappointing addition to the team.

    1. @OOliver Ricciardo will get up to speed with more races. The same story for every driver who changed a team from last season.

      1. The ‘new driver’ which impressed me most these two races was Sainz, @jerejj.
        But not sure if that is an impressive start of Sainz at Ferrari, or Leclerc still lacking the consistency.

        1. Sainz has really impressed me. I was expecting Leclerc to destroy him, but Sainz has not been too far off, and I actually consider Leclerc to be the fastest driver on the grid, at least over a single lap (over a race distance and certainly over a whole season he is not yet as good as Hamilton or Verstappen, but I think he’ll get there). Along with Norris’ impressive start to the season compared to Ricciardo, it seems that maybe the McLaren drivers were better than they seemed these last two years, and dragged a car that was maybe 5th fastest to 3rd in the championship last year.

          1. @f1frog Completely agree with you on Leclerc and on last year’s McLaren drivers

          2. @coldfly @f1frog The guy messed up qualifying yet again, and was going off the track left, right and center in the race, and that’s impressive?

          3. @balue he wasn’t brilliant in Imola, but I think he did okay compared to the rest of the grid overall. There were a lot of poor performances yesterday. But he has generally been only just off Leclerc’s pace, which is a lot better than I had expected. That’s way I say he has been impressive, and far more so than Ricciardo, Perez or Vettel. Alonso did well in Bahrain, but not in Imola, so I would say he has been as impressive as Sainz.

  3. Reviewing the race like this made me realise that Russell did a big favour to Toto by helping Mercedes to keep the lead in both championships.
    I wonder when he will get his reward.

    1. Indeed. Those 2 mins of mayhem where Lewis, Valtteri and George all fumbled to varying degrees may have felt like an eternity to Toto.

      But the 2nd crash between Valtteri and George actually allowed Lewis back in the game. And lets face it, Bottas was never going to manage any points today.

      But at least, he helped out his teammate.

      Toto should give him also an award for his role in the crash :)

      1. And if George hadn’t slowed on the wettest part of the track when Ham was catching Max, giving Ham the choice of a risky overtake or losing seconds to Max by being stuck behind a deliberately slow Williams, it would have been Ham right behind Max when Max decided to go off-piste behind the safety car. Therefore I think Toto should still give consideration to the possibility of putting Russell in a Clio.
        And I see Renault sent George a Clio Cup entry form for the next Clio Cup race in Monza. :)

        1. Yeh ian – I do wonder what you would be saying in this section today though when George had gone off line onto the wet, allowing Lewis through on the dry line and then collecting Lewis because he couldn’t get it stopped (like Lewis basically).
          Or, Lewis could have taken it like Max did – a bit more caution and patience and pass where it was safer to do so.

          Which is actually a funny conclusion because this is something that usually Max seems the more impatient one.

          Maybe this gives some food for thought in what it means to be the underdog, trying to make up time, with the huger risks that poses and the possible consequences towards making mistakes.

          1. Nothing ‘funny’ about the hunter being the impatient one. You take your opportunities where you can. As Max did in Bahrain and as he did off the line to the first corner at this race. And as Ham did here after closing to within 2 seconds of Max in the traffic. Can’t really see either of them taking a too conservative approach when they are behind the other one this year.

            Although slightly different this year for Max in that in the past he could be more impatient as all he had to lose was a win. Now both are in position where there is more at stake, particularly as the points are close.

            As for George I do think the Merc frightened him off the road a bit to soon. Was an odd place to slow down to let someone pass.

          2. exactly…
            when Max has an incident like this, it is his fault, and he is impatient
            when it happens to Lewis, the backmarkers didn’t go out of the way quick enough… but this time he was the impatient one.

            It’s good to see the 2 best drivers (in fairly equal cars) fight against each other… both making mistakes, because they need to push a lot… that is what it is about

            I am afraid though that the battle could be decided by reliability issues

    2. @coldfly I think a new 1-year (behave-or-else) contract is being drafted as we speak. That’s the famous Mercedes ‘loyalty’ values..

      Russell is probably off the table for now.

    3. Even though I don’t believe in this theory it does sometimes raise my eyebrows. If this crash didn’t happen Lewis his race was most likely over. And yes there could have been another crash later in the race however that would have been too late for HAM to fight back into 2nd. Anyways fantastic come back no doubt but he got very very lucky. I am no particular fan of VER or HAM; just enjoying the close fight.

  4. Great recovery from Lewis. Lucky losing the car, damaging his front in the same lap his mate crashed. I had fun seeing this race. Pole position will be important in the fight Ves vs Ham. If they let each other alive in the first corners we can have major excitement all season.

    1. @pietkoster

      Pole position will be important in the fight Ves vs Ham.

      Yet both races had different pole sitters vs race winners :)

      1. Right. It’s paramount not to have pole for the remainder of the races.

  5. Here’s a conspiracy theory: the crash caused the red flag (most likely scenario due to the speed and impact) saving Hamilton’s race since he was a lap down (all the time lost reversing + pit stop) when the red flag came…


    PS:Just to clarify, it’s really just a conspiracy theory and I wrote it as a joke, but the timing was very fortunate for Lewis.
    One also wonders why it took a bit for red flag BUT it’s Masi so I’m now used to these “changed my mind” and “back and forth” decisions…

    1. A conspiracy theory is when there is a valid reason to believe there exists a conspiracy.
      You imply Russell made Hamilton run off track by racing him when about to be lapped then he immediately hunted Bottas down so he could crash into him and cause a Red flag to aid Hamilton’s recovery.
      Thats as good as saying Jesus fell on the cross.

      1. You can write, but apparently you can’t read so good.

      2. OOliver I would say the ‘valid reason’ argument when it comes to conspiracy theories would apply only to those who don’t actually have much of a leg to stand on, so they reach for bizarre reasons that only they themselves consider valid.

        1. @robbie I don’t mean to initiate a discussion for this because it is totally irrelevant, but I will just write an example for a “valid reason”. Back in 2001, with the Twin Towers etc., there was a conspiracy theory that no plane crashed in Shanksville. The official explanation was that due to extremely high impact speed, fire etc. the plane was completely “evaporated”, but they said also that they found the passports of the hijackers inside the very same crater. 100 tons of steel and titanium became thin air but an object from plactic and paper wasn’t affected by the fire. If you say and insist that this is not a “valid reason”, a bizarre one and “only they themselves consider valid”, then you’d better start looking at the mirror before talking to others. And I am not writing this as on offence to you, but because this is pretty much how every conspiracy theory starts. Keep as open mind as possible and review both sides before drawing conclusion.

          1. @f1-fan I have an open mind but I also have a clear mind which is how I can distinguish valid reasons from otherwise. At a certain point one realizes there is no need to review both sides when one side is being ridiculous.

        2. @robbie So, what you are basically saying is that you call something “ridiculous” and you reject it without checking it first, just because it doesn’t suit to what you already have in “clear mind” for granted. Nice!

          Galileo: Earth is moving. Pope: RIDICULOUS! May this man d1e in jail.

          1. @f1-fan Yup, as I say there is the ridiculous, in these modern times not Galileo’s time, that I don’t need nor care to waste my time on. I saw two airplanes hit the World Trade Centre as did the world. Why would I think Shanksville was made up? Anyway, you said you didn’t want to open up a debate about it and I’ve said all I care to say on it. You know where I stand and you’ll just have to accept that, and I couldn’t care less if that to you means I am close minded.

        3. @Robbie

          I saw two airplanes hit the World Trade Centre as did the world.

          No you didn’t. You saw what looked like two planes hit the WTC. That is a more accurate statement.

          So if someone comes to you and say they weren’t actual planes, but drones made to look like planes, or that the videos were all altered, you should at least listen to them and examine whatever evidence they have of their claim.

          1. Spoiler: they didn’t have any evidence.

          2. @kbdavies Lol. No thanks. No time to listen to nonsense let alone examine nonsense. ‘Someone’ wants to spend the time and come up with proof, not conspiracy theories, which are just that…theories, then they are free to spend that time and actually prove their theories, not just claim them.

  6. I just think that compared to other sports, the rules in F1 are simply absurd. Football is not played everywhere there is grass, after all, but on a field defined by white lines. And to gift anyone essentially free car repair plus an entire lap is like allowing a goal from offside and giving the goalkeeper yellow card on top of it…

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      19th April 2021, 13:44

      Wait, you think the rules in F1 are crazy? You should see youth tennis. Your opponent can call any shot out they please and you have to accept their calls. If your shot is an ace on the serve, your opponent can and and will almost always call it out. If they are super nice, they’ll call a let even though your serve was 3 feet over the net.

      As for F1, these are the regulations and unlapping cars usually helps because let’s not forget that Lewis went off course trying to pass a lapped car. He wasn’t racing, he was simply trying to avoid losing more time. In many ways, this was actually a fair outcome and he should have been in P2 to begin with. If anything, it benefited Verstappen the most.

    2. Well we could go down the football route and stop at half distance to repair the equipment and refuel as they do in football.

      1. If the rules said EACH race would be run in two heats, with time-defined break during which repairs are permitted…so be it. But it would be very different from the nonsense we have now.

        1. If the rules said EACH race would be run in two heats, with time-defined break during which repairs are permitted…so be it.

          Which funnily enough is exactly what we will have in Silverstone, Monza, and Brazil this year (if all those races go ahead). Only minor difference being the top 3 will be awarded some points after the first heat.

          1. @keithedin Please don’t get me started on points for qualifying race…why is now pole position for Interlagos or Silverstone so much more valuable than that in Monaco or Monza? Anyway, there was one two-heat world championship race at Avus in 1959…to my knowledge, no work was permitted during the break.

  7. Mercedes pit team had a stellar 4.0 stop for HAM. They managed a 2.2 for BOT which might be their lowest for a decade. They no longer have a car that can make up for rubbish pit stops.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      19th April 2021, 13:36

      Was that for the front wing change or just tyres? I forgot his pit stops – I could go back and watch it again but I assume you know:-)

      1. Just tyres, sticky front wheel and a slight hold up with another car. But not enough to get in front of Max.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          19th April 2021, 14:26

          Oh yeah, the right tyre… that wasn’t their fault, though? The wheel was just hard to take off. Shame for Lewis, I’m not sure if he would have beaten Verstappen even if the pit stop was 2.2 seconds.

          1. from memory, Verstappen was 5 seconds in front after Hamiltons pit-stop

  8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    19th April 2021, 13:34

    Amazing recovery by Lewis – he hounded Sainz, Leclerc, and Norris.

    With Leclerc, he had to deal with the Double DRS but he kept pecking at him until Leclerc lost the DRS and then attacked.

    With Norris, he’d get close with DRS but Norris within 0.3 seconds and then a few corners later the delta jumped to 0.7-0.8 so it was hard to stay with him. He was even fighting for the fastest lap to stay ahead of Verstappen in the WDC. Now, that’s tenacity folks – it’s rounds #1 and #2 and Lewis is fighting as if he’s never won a race before and he needs to put bread on his family’s table.

    Any other driver would have been fine reaching the podium but not Lewis, he was probably fuming that Max was too far ahead for him to attack him. That’s how you become a champion.

    Amazing Stuff, Lewis!!!

    1. @freelittlebirds Agree it was a great recovery. However I thought Hamilton looked pretty delighted to be 2nd, not fuming at all. What the report doesn’t flag up is how Hamilton was able to drive through to second when Bottas, same car and apparently no issues, was stuck in the middle until he crashed out with Russell.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        19th April 2021, 13:54


        However I thought Hamilton looked pretty delighted to be 2nd, not fuming at all.

        Well, he did accomplish a few things. He maximized the result after the mistake with the help of the Red Flag and he managed to stay on top of the WDC taking fastest lap. He also made no mistakes overtaking 3 very talented drivers in pretty quick cars. He had every reason to celebrate those things.

        At the same time, he knows that he should be driving at a higher standard. He risked an unforced DNF today, his first since 2018, right?

        What the report doesn’t flag up is how Hamilton was able to drive through to second when Bottas, same car and apparently no issues, was stuck in the middle until he crashed out with Russell.

        Yeah, I don’t know what was up with Bottas and why he was so slow and unable to compete. He was lapped yesterday which is going to be very difficult to recover from mentally. Lewis has done that to both Button and Bottas ;-) I definitely think that Bottas is not a great driver in wet/changing conditions, much like Rosberg.

        1. @freelittlebirds He did say he was fuming with himself that he went off. But then he was lucky to be able to do something about it with the red flag. Overall Mercedes are in for a tough season, trying to sort out the loss of rear downforce/stability, Bottas not looking good but needing a strong second driver, deciding on how much to invest in this year and next year. Standard for any other team maybe, but not something they’ve been used to. Or put another way, they’re going to have to rely on Hamilton more than ever.

          1. @freelittlebirds @david-br Wily veteran that he is, still I would like to think LH could not erase from his mind all day the spectacular LH-esque move Max made on him in turn one, which changed the narrative for pole sitter LH from that point on. The impatience he describes that caused his rare mistake, only saved by the GR/VB crash, was I would like to think a sign of LH caught on his hind foot for a change. This is exactly Max’s task if indeed they start trading poles and wins this season…get into LH’s head that he is no longer just going to take the majority of poles and control the race and his pace after that. I’m hoping if Max can’t run away with this season, he at least can give LH a run like he hasn’t experienced since 2016 with Nico. That first turn move was exactly what Max needed to do to start to stamp his authority on this season. While LH sits through the next few weeks, I’d like to think that as much as he will be thanking the racing gods once again, he’ll be ruing being “LH’ed” in turn one.

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            19th April 2021, 15:29

            @robbie Yes, it looked great until you look at the onboards from the start. Max was practically on the line and I think he may have touched the grass a bit. He’s quite lucky he didn’t collect Lewis and Checo and the entire field. Brave, but in my opinion, foolish because he tried to win the race on Turn 1.

            He also risked a penalty on Turn 1 which I can understand that the stewards didn’t want to give but Max took the whole track (the whole entire thing) there and I’m not sure he was entitled to it. He effectively could have ended Lewis’ race there and that would have sent Max to the back of the pack with a penalty.

            I think he didn’t get a penalty because Lewis continued and the stewards probably balanced the previous race penalty with this incident as it’s literally on the next lap.

            Brave move, though! Between the Miracle on lap one, long pit stop for Lewis, the backmarkers, the spin at the restart, the racing gods and the were on Max’s side for sure! :-)

          3. @freelittlebirds It’s called racing, and it’s risky, and Max didn’t do anything LH wouldn’t have tried had he been the one starting so well off the line from third. Max took ownership of the racing line and the corner, and relegated LH to have to make a decision, which he did by deciding to stick it out staying wide, exactly as LH has done to others who have made the same choice so many times. Now he knows how it feels, and that it isn’t so easy as the commentators have always pointed out what staying wide like that can mean. Especially against LH. They usually say something like ‘that’ll never work.’

            Max didn’t get a penalty, nor was it even investigated, because LH has taught the F1 racing world that this is how it is done, and Max has learned the lesson from him very well. No miracle from Max, no ‘balancing the previous race penalty,’ just Max personified, and the racing gods were far more on LH’s side this round. His choice, the same one he has forced others into, damaged his car from the getgo.

          4. @robbie @freelittlebirds Just listened to the BBC F1 podcast and they call it right I think: Hamilton knows it’s a title fight with Verstappen this season, anyone else is an irrelevance, which means that he’ll risk more (as he probably has to) to secure a win, including jostling with Max since the outcome is either it works, both are taken out, or he comes out worse – but ‘on balance’ there’s a better chance of a positive result (if he’s ahead in the championship). Max will calculate the same. So it should be ‘interesting’… That said, they clearly respect each other at the moment, so I hope that whatever abrasions over the season, it stays that way. As for the start, I agree with @robbie, that was Max’s corner, Lewis was pushing his luck, which he’s entitled to try.

        2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          19th April 2021, 16:11

          @robbie Max had a fantastic start but his left front wheel did touch the grass (momentarily but that’s enough) and he was on the white lines for the entire time. My understanding is that those lines are very slippery from LeMans and other racing series and touching the grass is usually the end especially as you’re accelerating…

          If you believe that the racing gods were more in LH’s favor this round then you’re entitled to that opinion.

          Part of the reason Max got ahead were the start AND the fact that LH had to cover 2 Red Bull drivers side-by-side. You can say Max did a fantastic but LH was the one sandwiched and yet all 3 came out without a collision.

          The fact that it wasn’t investigated doesn’t mean much especially when the stewards would receive a F from the most generous of graders. Apparently, there was an issue with the coffee machine and they missed most of the race :-)

          1. @freelittlebirds Which just accents how everyone else has had it, well, not everyone, going up against the two dominant Mercedes sandwich for the last 7+ seasons. You can try to blame the lack of investigation on a coffee machine, jokingly I know, but the fact is Max did an exemplary job.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    19th April 2021, 14:28

    @david-br Agreed, we have a great season ahead of us. I hope Bottas has the mental fortitude to recover from this just as Lewis did. I think Lewis will give it his all which will elevate the entire field.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      19th April 2021, 14:29

      Oops – I forgot to reply. You live, you learn! No recovery for me unfortunately :-)

  10. I know there’s a saying. You make your own luck. But is Hamilton using magic or something? He really shouldn’t have been in P2 with how long he was stuck in the gravel. But the red flag was a blessing, allowed him to reset and go again. His overtakes were great, but he was fortunate not to get stuck in a DRS train.

  11. The bizarre thing is that it’s the second race in a row at Imola that Hamilton got saved by the safety car at the exact time he needed it

  12. Saved by the red flag in a major way!
    His first error of judgement was on Lap 1 as captured in the photo at the head of this article. He had time to back out but elected not to, knowing full well that he was headed straight onto those murderous sausage kerbs. Lucky not to sustain race-ending damage right there. 2 major errors in 1 race when he has averaged less than that over entire seasons prior suggests he is rattled by VER. I hope the gap between RB16B and W12 remain small enough for close racing between these two exceptional drivers throughout the season.

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