Rain spiced up an interesting weekend at Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. In what was the closest qualifying top eight in nine years (Malaysia 2012), the fight for the race win was still between the two faces of the 2021 season: Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
Max Verstappen: 9.5
Not quite a flawless weekend, but a very efficient performance on Sunday. Verstappen only managed third in qualifying due to several mistakes, but was aggressive and fair at the start, as you would expect.
He took the lead and remained in control ahead of Hamilton, before the red flag came out. On the restart he almost spun and lost his work, but it was just a scare. He was commanding once more, claiming his first win of the season in a dominant way.
Lewis Hamilton: 7.5
He probably was the one driver that made less mistakes in qualifying, claiming a good pole position. The start wasn’t perfect and he was aggressively pushed aside by Verstappen.
The Briton chased him all the way before a crucial mistake when overtaking a lapped car. The margin from retiring and losing an incredible amount of points was minimal and he found himself lapped.
The red flag gave him a huge chance and this time he took it with a come-back from eighth to second that keeps him in the lead of the drivers’ championship.
Lando Norris: 9.5
What denies him a full score is a crucial error in qualifying and a poor start, but Norris showed that this season he has stepped up his level. He was incredibly quick in qualifying, only to be denied a super-lap due to exceeding track limits.
He found himself ninth on the opening lap, but a series of overtakes put him fifth and then fourth due to Sergio Perez’s penalty. On the restart he gained another place on Charles Leclerc, finding himself second and resisting until the end under immense pressure.
Only Hamilton’s late charge denied him, as he still got the second podium of his career.Embed from Getty Images
Charles Leclerc: 8.5
For the second consecutive race he qualified a sublime P4, but was pipped by Lando Norris for the “best of the rest” position. Leclerc was off quickly and occupied a podium place with an awesome race until the red flag.
The restart meant much of his work was undone and it was a huge blow considering he was more than 20 seconds ahead of everyone else. He couldn’t defend against Hamilton, but nevertheless it was another strong performance.
Carlos Sainz: 8
He made several mistakes, but still finished P5 on what was, points-wise, a positive weekend. Carlos Sainz was knocked out in Q2 and a lot was left to do in order to come back to the top positions.
He put his head down and despite two visits to the gravel trap, his pace was as quick enough to allow him to pass Daniel Ricciardo.
On the restart he followed his teammate to the end, getting a strong P5, probably a lot more than what he expected last year given the team’s performance.Embed from Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo: 6.5
Similarly to Bahrain, he did the job in Q3, almost coming out of nowhere to beat Norris in qualifying. However, the race was tougher and despite starting much better than his teammate he was caught and forced to let him by.
It was a real struggle, but the very positive note is that, whilst he is going through his learning curve, he is bringing big points home.
Pierre Gasly: 6.5
Once again, his race result didn’t reflect the true performance of the car, as the team fitted him full wets on a drying track. He qualified an awesome P5, but the race went from bad to worse as he progressively lost multiple places.
However, he stayed error-free and on the red flag restart he made up many places, still finishing P7, which is an important damage limitation.
Lance Stroll: 6.5
He has always been a good wet-weather driver and this showed with a decent first half of the race performance, even though the frontrunners went away.
He was solid all race long, but he lost P7 to Pierre Gasly for what was deemed to be an illegal overtake. It was still a positive show, once again soundly beating his teammate.Embed from Getty Images
Esteban Ocon: 6.5
The Alpine is not maintaining the expectations of the start of the season and Esteban Ocon is finding himself struggling together with his teammate.
However, this time it was a much more positive show than it was in Bahrain, consistently being ahead of Fernando Alonso and putting in a series of overtakes. At the end he was promoted to P9, which is still better than nothing.
Fernando Alonso: 5.5
Not quite what we would expect from the Spaniard, who was off the pace in qualifying and also in the race. In these conditions Alonso has always been opportunistic, but instead spent large chunks of Sunday stuck in the bottom places.
He was rewarded with a point and it can be accepted that these are tough conditions for someone who is returning after two years, but he will be called to do more.
Sergio Perez: 5
For the first time in his career, he put his car on the front row of the grid, with a decent qualifying that was only hundredths of a second slower than pole position.
However, he didn’t repeat himself in the race, first slipping behind Leclerc and being off the pace, then wasting a great opportunity by spinning a few laps after the race restarted. Finishing 11th is not what he would have wanted after what was shown.
Yuki Tsunoda: 5
His lack of experience emerged throughout the weekend and it was a bit of a disappointment, considering all the amount of testing Alpha Tauri conducted at Imola.
A mistake in qualifying led to him starting last, then he did makeup places, finding himself 10th on the restart, but he spun just a few corners later and lost a chance to score points.Embed from Getty Images
Kimi Raikkonen: 6.5
Ninth place was cruelly taken away from him for an illegal restart procedure, which was caused from his only real mistake of the day. Once again, it wasn’t his best qualifying, but on the race it was a different story.
Kimi Raikkonen fought for points and could get them if it wasn’t for unclarity over his position on the restart: after he spun, he should have got back up to his place, but in not doing so, he was penalised.
Antonio Giovinazzi: 6.5
He’s not a lucky driver and this is beginning to be clear to everyone. He was comfortably in the top 10 after the restart, chasing down his teammate, but an issue with his brakes forced him to pit and drop out.
Considering Raikkonen’s penalty, he would have likely finished P9 was it not for the mechanical problem.
Sebastian Vettel: 5
He is still not feeling at one with the car and keeps trailing behind Lance Stroll. It was a very messy weekend, due to faults of his and his team.
He had to start from the pitlane and was later penalised, but his race was ruined already as it was spent mostly in the bottom part of the standings.
Mick Schumacher: 5.5
His error in the opening laps where he spun under the safety car ruins an otherwise decent weekend, in which he once again beat Nikita Mazepin in qualifying and race.
Despite having to pit and losing a lot of time, he got back ahead of the Russian and finished penultimate. Not much more can be asked from a Haas driver.
Nikita Mazepin: 5
At least this time he finished the race and limited the errors, which were still a big part of his weekend.
Finishing behind Mick Schumacher wasn’t what he wanted, but the positive side is there was still some progress compared to Bahrain.
Valtteri Bottas: 4
The incident may not have been totally his fault, but why was he fighting a Williams midway during the race? He appeared competitive, but in Q3 he messed up both his laps to only start P8.
In conditions where he has never been strong on Sunday, he was part of the midfield pack, only running at the bottom of the top 10 before colliding with George Russell. Now that it appears Mercedes have a smaller gap to the chasers, he cannot offer messy performances.Embed from Getty Images
George Russell: 5.5
It was a strong weekend until the crash, as he was once again brutally denied points. He qualified a very strong P12 and then appeared flawless in the first part of the race.
He was fighting Stroll and Bottas for P8, but attempted a risky move on the Finn which didn’t pay off. Once again, maybe it’s not his fault, but it was a very risky manoeuvre that considering his position, wasn’t worth the gamble.
Nicholas Latifi: 5
Similarly to Russell, it was a superb weekend until the crash. Finally, he gave the impression of being a competitive driver, keeping head-to-head with his teammate on Friday and Saturday, where he got his best-ever start on P14.
However, he spun after a few corners and then collected Mazepin with a dangerous move when rejoining the track. There was huge potential, but practically, he didn’t feature in the race.Embed from Getty Images
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