Verstappen heads Red Bull one-two at Imola as Ferrari endures horrible race on home turf

By Balazs Szabo on

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen scored a dominant victory in difficult conditions at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, finishing ahead of his team mate Sergio Perez and Lando Norris. Championship leader Charles Leclerc ended the race in P6 following a late mistake which saw him spin at Variante Alta.

The heavens opened just two hours ahead of the start of the third Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but the track started to dry out for the start of the race, prompting the drivers to fit the intermediate tyres.

The start saw the two Ferrari drivers lose a few positions with Charles Leclerc falling behind Sergio Perez and Lando Norris while Carlos Sainz also lost a position to the Bristol-born McLaren driver. There was then more frustration for Ferrari as Daniel Ricciardo tagged the back of Sainz’s Ferrari SF-75 at Turn 1 which sent the Spaniard into a spin. With the rear end of the car beached in the gravel, Sainz could not escape from the run-off zone and was forced to retire from the race.

There was another contact at the start with Fernando Alonso getting a touch from Mick Schumacher. The Spaniard’s bad luck continued as his Alpine A522 suffered significant damage to the engine cover. Alonso rushed back into the pits, but he was forced to retire after the Alpine mechanics inspected his car.

As the race went on, the two Red Bull drivers managed to get away while Leclerc was held up by Norris. On lap 8, the Monegasque managed to overtake the Briton with a stunning move, but he was already over six seconds behind race leader Verstappen.

There was battle in the mid-field as well with George Russell and Kevin Magnussen fighting over the fifth position. The Briton overtook the Dane on lap 12 into Tamburello, but missed the braking point which enabled the Haas racer to fight back into the Villeneuve chicane. The Mercedes driver then made a great pass on Magnussen on the next lap and managed to escape.

In the meantime, Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton was battling with Lance Stroll as the seven-time world champion was languishing in P11.

By Lap 14, the dry line was prominent and drivers were hunting for some wet patches to soothe their searing inter tyres. After dropping back to the back of the field, McLaren’s Ricciardo dropped the ball and went into the pits for new tyres despite the chance of rain.

As the Australian was quick even on the cold slick tyres, every driver was in a rush to mimic Ricciardo’s bold move. At the front, Ferrari waited for Leclerc to come in, but the Monegasque opted against it after seeing Perez dive into the pits. The next lap saw than race leader Verstappen and Leclerc come in for fresh slick red-walled tyres.

After exiting the pit lane, Leclerc emerged just ahead of Perez, but the Mexican’s tyres were warmer and managed to overtake the Monegasque. Perez was also aided by the fact that Ferrari made a slight mistake while servicing Leclerc, who lost a valuable amount of time in the pits as a result.

On the next laps, Leclerc was hunting down Perez, who made multiple mistakes at the tricky Variante Alta. As the race director did not allow DRS by that point, Leclerc could not get past Perez’s Red Bull that was significantly quicker on the start-finish full-throttle section.

On lap 30, Verstappen started to lap drivers with getting past Alfa Romeo’s Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu. Four laps later, conditions were deemed dry enough for DRS to be enabled.

The reigning champion appeared to be in full control of the race and managed to stretch his legs further. On Lap 41, the Dutchman lapped Hamilton, his championship rival from last year, who was involved in a battle with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly for P13.

On Lap 50, Leclerc decided to pit for new tyres in a bid to set the fastest lap of the race. This strategy move prompted Red Bull to pit its drivers as well. Leclerc rejoined the track behind Norris, but did not hesitate to overtake the Briton at the first time of asking.

While attempting to pass Perez, Leclerc made a mistake at Variante Alta, spinning around with his Ferrari. As he touched the wall and damaged his car, he required a pit stop to change the front wing of his SF-75. The Monegasque managed to recover to sixth to salvage eight points but has seen his championship advantage shrink to 27 points.

At the front, Verstappen cruised to a win, beating his team mate Perez. Leclerc’s mistake promoted Norris to P3, taking McLaren’s first podium of the year following the Woking based team’s very difficult start to the year.

Russell and Bottas were involved in a fierce battle in the dying stages of the race with the Finn appearing significantly faster compared to his successor at Mercedes. Russell had a problem at the pit stop as his team was unable to make the crucial tweak to the front wing when he switched from intermediates to slicks. The Alfa Romeo racer attempted multiple moves, but was unable to get the jump on Russell, taking 5th behind the Briton.

AlphaTauri had a much better Sunday after their woes in Friday’s qualifying session with Yuki Tsunoda finishing the team’s home race in P7. It was also a positive day for Aston Martin which scored its first points of the year thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s seventh and Stroll’s tenth place. The star of the qualifying session, Kevin Magnussen ended the race in P9.


Pos. No. Driver Car Laps Time Pts
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Rbpt 63 1:32:07.986 0
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Rbpt 63 +16.527s 0
3 4 Lando Norris Mclaren Mercedes 63 +34.834s 0
4 63 George Russell Mercedes 63 +42.506s 0
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 63 +43.181s 0
6 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 63 +56.072s 0
7 22 Yuki Tsunoda Alphatauri Rbpt 63 +61.110s 0
8 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 63 +70.892s 0
9 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 63 +75.260s 0
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
11 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
12 10 Pierre Gasly Alphatauri Rbpt 62 +1 lap 0
13 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 62 +1 lap 0
15 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 62 +1 lap 0
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
17 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 62 +1 lap 0
18 3 Daniel Ricciardo Mclaren Mercedes 62 +1 lap 0
NC 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 6 DNF 0
NC 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0 DNF 0

GP Emilia Romagnaprevious