The Emilia Romagna GP was a classic race that had everything fans could want – a battle for the lead, an unexpected podium, a hint of rain and plenty of overtaking, but who had a good race and who will have been hoping for more?
It was quite difficult to pick the winners for this week – outside the top five not many drivers had standout performances whilst no-one survived the weekend without a noticeable error at some point.
Here, we take a look at the winners and losers of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix…
Loser: Lewis Hamilton
Potentially a controversial one, so I’ll preface this by saying that Hamilton’s performance from the red flag was exceptional, and shows why he’s a seven-time world champion. Very few drivers on the grid could’ve got back up to second from there but with Hamilton it always seemed possible.
However, this was a track where Mercedes seemed to have the edge on their Milton Keynes rivals and especially once Hamilton secured pole position, a win was definitely within Mercedes’ grasp.
He was beaten off the start more thanks to Verstappen’s brilliance than his own shortcoming (although I’d generally put race starts as one of his weaker areas), but probably didn’t need to be so gung-ho chasing a lost cause going into the first chicane.
And it was his mistake that set him back to ninth, the first serious mistake he’s made in a very long time and one that shows the immense pressure of the battle for the lead.
So while his recovery drive was phenomenal, it shouldn’t have been on the cards in the first place because he should’ve been fighting Verstappen 22 seconds up the road for the victory.
Although he also leaves this race still leading the championship. So if this is his ‘off-day’ then that’s arguably scarier for his competitors…
Winner: Lando Norris
Going into this season there was a real worry that Ricciardo would take control of McLaren, as he had done at Renault and Red Bull before that. Norris put out some pretty confident statements pre-season about the Australian coming into his team, and so far the Brit’s backed that up with his performances.
Imola was the best example of that so far, as he was oh-so-close to qualifying third, which would’ve been arguably more impressive than his podium. It sounds like he beat himself up a bit over Saturday evening but he was then able to reset for the race, and made it up from ninth to second when the red flags came out.
He held that position off the restart and for most of the rest of the race, but though Norris defended well from his compatriot, the race was ultimately a too laps too far or him to hold the position.
Nonetheless, it was a superb drive completely deserving of a podium finish, and it’s nice to see those performances get rewarded.
Based less than 20 minutes from Imola, many were expecting AlphaTauri to have a great weekend and to be challenging the top five – especially after their strong performances three weeks ago and at the Emilia Romagna GP last year.
However, their weekend always seemed a bit off. Yuki Tsunoda never properly got going despite having a decent amount of experience at this track compared to others on the calendar, as he crashed in Q1.
He was running in the top ten after the red flag and was able to get past Hamilton, but then made another error that dropped him out of the points. It’s only his second race though.
Meanwhile, Gasly initially looked to be living up to the hype as he qualified fourth and only half a tenth away from Charles Leclerc ahead.
But it started to unravel for the Frenchman once he emerged onto the formation lap bearing full-wet tyres, as the track was drying off especially in the third sector.
It was a bizarre decision from AlphaTauri (who are normally bang-on with their strategy calls), and meant that when they finally bit the bullet and pitted for intermediate tyres, Gasly had lost heaps of time and was sitting second-last.
He did well to recover from there, but AlphaTauri will have been hoping for more than six points from this weekend.
Winner: Max Verstappen
What a performance from the Dutchman. Verstappen looked under pressure coming into Sunday as his teammate Sergio Pérez out-qualified him, but from lights out Verstappen was on it.
He made a dream start to pass Hamilton and lead his rival to overcommit into the first corner, and he never surrendered the net lead from there.
He built out his buffer to Hamilton in the early stages, peaking at five seconds, and was far enough ahead that Mercedes’ attempt at an overcut was unlikely to succeed even if they had a flawless pitstop.
He immediately put more time into Hamilton and that was what forced the Brit’s error attempting to lap George Russell – Verstappen had his rival on the back foot from the start and that was where he got his reward.
From there it was a cruise to the finish, but that was a cruise that Verstappen had earned through his pace before the red flag. This was maybe the most complete of Verstappen’s wins as he beat Hamilton from the start, wheel-to-wheel, in laptime and car control. Masterful
Loser: George Russell
If you’re going to get that angry about a crash, at least make sure you’re not the one that caused it.
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 18, 2021
Up until lap 30 Russell had been strong, Latifi looked stronger in free practice but Russell yet again delivered on Saturday afternoon to start a superb 12th, and then looked on track to turn that into his first Williams points as he spent the majority of his race in the top ten.
But that all unravelled on the start-finish straight around the halfway stage of the race, as he looked to overtake Bottas but dipped a wheel onto the grass, lost control, and rear-ended the Finn to end both of their races in a high-speed crash.
Russell didn’t cover himself in glory post-race either, as he accused Bottas of being a dangerous driver and intimated that he wouldn’t do that to any other driver.
Luckily, Russell has a bit of credit in the bank but this was an ugly incident.
Ferrari’s performance in Bahrain was promising, and their fourth and fifth-placed finishes at Imola just reinforces that their return is for real. And to do it at their home track won’t have done any harm either.
There might have been some disappointment on Saturday as Carlos Sainz was four-tenths behind Charles Leclerc and was eliminated in Q2 but that will have been offset by Leclerc grabbing a second-row spot on the grid.
Despite his spin on the formation lap, Leclerc was straight on the pace and spent most of his race in the top three, whilst Sainz showed good race pace especially after the red flag – he finished less than 1.5 seconds behind his teammate
For Ferrari, 22 points is a fantastic haul and there promises to be more to come. Entering the season there was a risk they’d be under pressure from AlphaTauri but so far they’ve shown to be a cut above their compatriots, plus Alpine and Aston Martin.
Loser: Valtteri Bottas
Even before his crash, this was a poor weekend for Bottas. After taking pole last year, he qualified a lowly eighth and never looked like making that up in the race.
He lost positions from the start and really struggled to make progress through a midfield that he really should be faster than. He also missed an opportunity to make a bold strategy call by going onto the dry tyres earlier, which also might’ve helped Mercedes gather some useful data for deciding Hamilton’s race.
But he didn’t take that risk, and that came back to bite him a few laps later when he was shunted at high-speed into the barrier by Russell, a nasty incident that clearly left Bottas winded.
After two race he’s already looking like an accessory to the world championship fight, but he’ll need to have much improved weekends to even be a factor in that.
Winner: Esteban Ocon
The first driver to outqualify Fernando Alonso since the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix, Ocon delivered a solid weekend that showed the progress he’ll need to match his two-time world champion teammate.
Alonso seemed a bit off all weekend but you can only beat what’s in front of you, and ninth is a great result for Ocon.
He started on full wets and quickly pitted which dropped him to the back, but from there he managed a really smart, safe drive which culminated in a deserved eighth place.
I was considering including Alpine on this list but couldn’t figure out whether they’d be a winner or a loser. On the one hand, they secured a double-points finish and got onto the constructors’ board, but on the other – if squeaking into ninth and tenth is a good weekend for them then what does that say about their ambitions as a team?
Loser: Sebastian Vettel
Another poor weekend for the four-time world champion.
He’s not reached Q3 now since last year’s British Grand Prix, while his teammate Lance Stroll made the final session for the second week running.
After all the talk of the move to Aston Martin being able to take the pressure off Vettel, being a less stressful environment than Ferrari, the pressure is now back on back on for him to start producing results.
Vettel spent most of his afternoon outside of the points (although he did fight up from 17th to 12th after the red flag). But that was the (pretty low) hgh point of his weekend, and he retired with one lap to go with a gearbox problem. He was still classified ahead of the Haas duo though.
What do you think of Adam’s ‘Winners and Losers’ selection? Let us know of your thoughts in the comments!