Premier League 2021/22 review - Analysis of every team's seasonMay 23 | 22 min read
Max Verstappen wins Emilia Romagna GP as Lewis Hamilton finishes down in 13th
Verstappen dominated in the wet-dry race here at Imola to claim his second win of the season.
Max Verstappen won the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton finished 13th and a lap behind on a desperate afternoon for the British driver.
Verstappen dominated in the wet-dry race here at Imola to claim his second win of the season, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez second and Lando Norris promoted to third after championship leader Charles Leclerc spun and dropped to sixth.
For Hamilton, the sport’s most decorated driver, he endured possibly the worst afternoon of his 16-season Formula One career.
The 37-year-old started 14th and finished only one place better off as George Russell progressed from 11th to fourth in the other Mercedes – holding off Valtteri Bottas, the man he replaced at the Silver Arrows, in the closing stages.
Verstappen’s win and Leclerc’s costly mistake breathed new life into this season’s championship battle, taking the Dutchman to second in the standings, 27 points adrift of his Ferrari rival.
After failing to score a single point, Hamilton is now 58 behind the Ferrari driver with just four rounds gone.
“We have been on it and it was a strong weekend,” said Verstappen, who took pole position here on Friday before winning Saturday’s sprint race and then taking the fastest lap en route to a commanding lights-to-flag victory.
“As a team we did very well and this one-two finish is well deserved. The start was positive and we judged the conditions.
“In the lead you have to dictate and it can be difficult but everything was well managed.”
A deluge of rain in the hours before the race ensured a wet start and Verstappen mastered the getaway to lead the field into the opening chicane.
But Leclerc, second on the grid, was slow away from his marks and the Monegasque was usurped by Perez and Norris.
There was worse news to come for the expectant Tifosi when Daniel Ricciardo made contact with Carlos Sainz at the Variante Tamburello, sending the Ferrari driver into the gravel. The Spaniard’s red machine was beached and his afternoon was over on the opening lap, just as in Melbourne a fortnight ago.
A fast-starting Russell moved up three spots to eighth and then took advantage of the Sainz-Ricciardo accident to take sixth. Hamilton also progressed on the opening lap to move up from 14th to 12th.
The safety car was deployed to retrieve Sainz’s stricken machine and when the race restarted on lap five, Verstappen retained his lead.
Further rain was on the radar but it never arrived and a dry line swiftly emerged.
Hamilton was tucked up in 11th and making no progress but declined the opportunity to switch to dry rubber.
Ricciardo was the first driver to take the gamble on lap 18 and – when the Australian started to light up the time charts – the rest of the pack followed suit.
But when Hamilton elected to stop, it was too late. The British driver lost a place to Esteban Ocon in the pits and then, as he struggled to get his slick rubber up to speed, fell behind Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly.
Hamilton would spend the remaining 43 laps on Gasly’s AlphaTauri gearbox and then suffered the indignity of being lapped by Verstappen at the start of lap 41.
He moved up one place after Ocon was handed a five-second penalty for an unsafe release in the pits.
The leading trio stopped for a second time in the closing stages, with Leclerc hustling Perez for second place.
But the championship leader fluffed his lines with nine laps to go when he ran over the kerbs at the Variante Alta and slid backwards into the barrier.
It is a surprise to be on the podium. It has been an amazing weekend and the team really deserve it. I love these conditions and I always do well
- Lando Norris
Leclerc recovered to the pit lane for a new front wing, emerging in ninth before passing Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel and Yuki Tsunoda for sixth.
McLaren driver Norris was delighted to finish in the top three and said: “It is a surprise to be on the podium.
“It has been an amazing weekend and the team really deserve it. I love these conditions and I always do well.”