Verstappen wins chaotic Imola classic as Hamilton rues rare mistake
IMOLA: Max Verstappen kept his cool to claim a chaotic rain-hit Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday as seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton recovered from a rare mistake to sneak in second.
Red Bull driver Verstappen muscled past pole siter Hamilton on the first corner at Imola to set up his impressive first win of the season.
“I surprised myself. We worked really hard to make that beter. In these tricky conditions we did a great job,” the delighted Dutch driver said.
Lando Norris in a Mclaren took third ahead of Charles Leclerc for Ferrari at the F1’ giant’s ‘home’ track close to their Marrenello HQ.
The outcome of a compelling second leg of the Formula One season confirmed Verstappen’s stature as a formidable obstacle to Hamilton’s quest for an unprecedented eighth drivers’ crown.
Ater winning the season-opener in Bahrain and puting in the fastest lap on Sunday Hamilton leads Verstappen by a mere point - 44 to 43 - ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix next time out.
Drama in the race itself had been on the cards as rain drenched the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in the run up to lights out, sparking mayhem.
Aston Martin mechanics had to scramble to douse flames on the rear brakes of Lance Stroll’s car, their counterparts at Mercedes got to work repairing a puncture on Valteri Botas’ car, as Fernando Alonso’s Alpine underwent a nose job ater the two-time former champion hit a wall.
Drivers then stood under umbrellas during a passionate rendition of the Italian national anthem. As the last note faded, the Italian Airforce’s Arrows squadron executed an immaculate and deafening flyby over the circuit.
Once racing got underway Verstappen’s silky smooth getaway proved decisive, the Dutchman leading out of the first corner, more or less untouched from here to the chequered flag by the mayhem in his wake.
A high-speed crash concerning Botas and George Russell in a Williams forced the race to be red-flagged as debris was cleared off the old Imola circuit.
RED FLAGS: The pair collided at over 300kmh on lap 34, both drivers shaken as their wrecked cars were lited off the track.
Russell was furious, remonstrating with Botas before the Finn had even got out of his car, slapping his helmet. The air was filled with four-leter expletives as the pair let off steam.
Once back in the pits Russell tweeted: “Thanks for all the messages. I’m fine, just disappointed.”
The red flags appeared a lap ater an uncharacteristic slip-up from Hamilton saw the Mercedes world champion hurtle off the circuit into a gravel pit when placed second on a treacherous rain-hit track.
Half an hour ater the suspension, a rolling re-start saw Verstappen set off in front of Leclerc and Norris. Hamilton, his car repaired, had work to do from ninth.
As Verstappen calmly reeled in his 11th career victory, but first in Italy, Hamilton weaved his way up to sit third, and then second ater passing Norris with three laps remaining.
“On my side it wasn’t the greatest of days. First time I’ve made a mistake in a long time, but I’m grateful I could bring he car home,” said a relieved Hamilton.
He more than anyone had benefited from the red flag intervention as his run-off had let him with a damaged car and one lap behind.
“I was just trying to get over the guting feeling when you make a mistake and moving on from it and learning from it - then get back into racing spirit and we still had some really fun batles with the guys,” he reflected.
With Norris in third this was the first time two Britons had climbed the podium since 2012.
“It is nice to be fighting these guys. Nice to be here on merit,” said Norris.
MIAMI JOINS F1 CALENDAR IN 2022: The Miami Grand Prix will join the Formula One calendar from the 2022 season, organisers said on Sunday, in a 10-year deal that adds a second American race to the championship ater the United States GP in Austin.
In a statement F1 said that the race, which does not yet have a scheduled date, will take place at a new track round the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens north of the Florida city.
“We are thrilled to announce that Formula 1 will be racing in Miami beginning in 2022,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.
“The US is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the US which will be further supported by this exciting second race.”
F1 said the track will be 5.41km long with highspeed straights which should allow top speeds of 320 Km/h and “multiple overtaking opportunities”.