Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton

After a race-long battle in Bahrain, yesterday’s race at Imola was won when the lights went out. Max Verstappen executed his start to perfection and controlled the race in an impeccable fashion. Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, produced on the best recovery drives of his career after finding the gravel and damaging his front wing at the hairpin.

There were similarities to the 2019 German Grand Prix that turned into one of the classics of the turbo-hybrid era, with Hamilton spinning off on slick tyres on a damp track whilst Verstappen led comfortably. But this time, the Brit showed why he is a seven-time world champion and fought his way back from ninth to take second and the fastest lap point, which means he retains the championship lead by a singular point.

The emergence of Lando Norris

If Lando Norris was taken seriously by Daniel Ricciardo before he joined McLaren, he will now. The British driver performed one of the best weekends of his F1 career: missing out on the second row and less than a tenth away from pole position due to a track limit invalidation and scoring the second podium of his career.

The seven-time race winner was asked to let Norris through on Lap 16 and immediately pulled 10 seconds before the switch to dry tyres. After the red flag, Norris pulled over 20 seconds on the Australian in 27 laps to showcase his dominance in the early stages of Riccardo’s McLaren career.

The beginning of the end for Valtteri Bottas?

Valtteri 4.0 seems to have died off quite quickly in 2021. After a subpar performance in Bahrain, the Finnish driver could only manage eighth in qualifying: four-tenths off his teammate who put it on pole position. After a dismal start, he was running tenth and overtook the slower Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly, who was on the wrong tyres for ninth. But then the main talking point of the race. Going into Turn 2, Bottas was under pressure from the slower Williams driven by George Russell. The same driver who was about to beat him back in last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when he drove in the Mercedes after Hamilton picked up COVID-19 before a late puncture to denied him his first F1 victory. The two collided but whilst the blame was partially at Russell’s door, the fact Bottas was about to be overtaken by the Williams does not help his case when he looks for a new Mercedes contract for 2022.

The resurgence of Ferrari

It was the case of what could have been for Ferrari. With their drivers sitting P3 and P4 on the restart behind Norris, who was on less durable tyres, there were hopes of a double podium for the Scuderia since Singapore 2019. But the podium dream edged away as the mighty Mercedes was too strong for the Italian outfit. Once again, Charles Leclerc dragged the car onto the second row of the grid whilst Carlos Sainz was knocked out in Q2. But the Spaniard who was only competing in his second race for Ferrari produced a fantastic comeback to finish in fifth and only a couple of seconds behind his teammate in fourth. After a disappointing 2020 season, there is a lot of optimism that the Prancing Horses are galloping their way up the pecking order.