Sunday Standouts: Issues in Imola
In short, the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was one hell of a race. All bets were called off when the playing field was levelled by a rain-soaked Sunday, which saw both triumph and tragedy around the historical circuit. Sensational driving from five racers earned them a spot in the winners list, but three other drivers here might want to skip the stewards room and bring an offering to the infamous Imola cat, Formulino.
————— Wins —————
5. Kimi Raikkonen
Despite his Alfa Romeo not usually part of the midfield fight, Raikkonen put in a stellar effort in the challenging conditions (drawing on his rally experience perhaps?) to come to a P9 finish. Although it was later changed to a P13 because of a 30 second post-race penalty, it doesn’t detract from the Iceman’s largely successful drive, a notable highlight being his skilful and calm navigation around debris after a front row view of George Russell and Valtteri Bottas’ collision.
4. Pierre Gasly
His race seemed absolutely ruined when viewers watched him slip further and further down the grid on his wet tyres, clearly the wrong choice against the intermediates on that day. But he more than made up time on his slicks, taking advantage of retirements and new mediums on the restart to charge back to P8, followed by Lance Stroll’s post-race penalty to claim 7th. Frustration was evident in his post-race interviews, stating that his race was “screwed” by the tyre strategy. Still a superb result considering he was 18th at one point in the early stages.
3. Lance Stroll
Although he did lost P7 to Gasly, Stroll’s drive had to be admired. He fought brake, vision and gearbox issues on Sunday to claim points, which couldn’t be said for Aston teammate Sebastian Vettel who quietly retired on the penultimate lap of the race. There were a few radio messages that sparked worries for his race, but Stroll managed all the problems and concerns well. This will be the second time in as many races he will have scored for the Aston Martin team, and beat his teammate as well.
2. Charles Leclerc
The Monegasque, displaying incredible race pace in the wet conditions, seemed set for P2. Ferrari’s woes of the 2020 season seemed to be a thing of the past and with a wet setup in place Leclerc looked absolutely dominant on track. But as the rain cleared and the track dried, that wet set up started to work against the Ferrari driver and slowed him down. Then the restart allowed Lando Norris to leapfrog him, and with Lewis Hamilton on the charge he inevitably slipped to 4th. But this will continue Leclerc’s streak of placing higher than fellow driver Carlos Sainz, and keep the prancing horses in contention for 3rd in the constructors championship against McLaren.
1. Lando Norris
Well it was quite the weekend for the McLaren driver. Narrowly missing out on P3 with a track limits mishap on Saturday, Norris ended up a distant 7th. But the Brit more than made up for it with his speed in the wet on Sunday. Swapping positions with teammate Daniel Riccardo after a request to show his pace, Norris quickly stretched his lead out while the Aussie, still unfamiliar with his car, was slowly overtaken by the Ferraris behind. At the rolling restart, he quickly took the opportunity to take Leclerc’s place and if the race had been a few laps shorter, he would have taken home his best ever result in an F1 race. Instead, his slowly expiring soft tyres meant he took 3rd just after Lewis Hamilton on mediums, tying his podium from Austria 2020 and he enjoyed some thoroughly deserved champagne on the podium.
————— Misses —————
3. Sebastian Vettel
Another disappointing race for Vettel, who was forced to retire on the second last lap. It was already a dismal weekend when he was knocked out in Q2, making it his 15th time in a row not making the top 10. Then brake issues forced the German to start from the pitlane, where he found himself 62 laps later when his gearbox couldn’t hold up. As much as I hate to say it, time is running out for Vettel to prove that he still belongs on the grid.
2. Valtteri Bottas
This wasn’t quite Mercedes’ weekend, with Lewis Hamilton making a costly mistake that without the sheer speed of the W12 and the restart, would have landed him far from P2. But Bottas’ performance was unremarkable from the start, driving somewhere in the middle of the pack in a rare occurrence from one fo the Silver Arrows. Then in a major collision with Williams’ George Russell near Tamburello, he lost control of his car and spun in into the barriers. Coming 2nd last year in the drivers’ championship, Bottas is now in 5th, 28 points behind leader and teammate Hamilton. He will need to majorly up his consistency in the next few races if he still wants a shot at winning the championship.
1. Williams Drivers (Nicholas Latifi and George Russell)
Set to be his best ever F1 weekend, Latifi qualified 14th on Saturday. But his Sunday efforts was cut short when he crashed out on Lap 1. The Canadian went off the track and due to poor visibility he thought that he was in last. Not knowing Nikita Mazepin was still behind him he tried to drive back onto the racing line, clipping the Haas driver and spinning out into the barriers shortly after. That consequently ended his race and he didn’t realise until after the race that he had contact with a car. He was evidently upset with his performance, saying he was ”extremely frustrated with myself that I didn’t even get to participate in the race and see what could have been possible.” But he seems hopeful for the future, citing that “there is optimism going forward.”
George Russell made it a little further than his teammate did, only to go off into the grass, lose traction and go into Bottas alongside him. This would be his second DNF in Imola, echoing last year’s disappointment of being so tantalisingly close to the points. His anger was clear in the replays of him approaching Bottas in his car, with gestures being exchanged between both drivers. However it should be noted that he was trying for an overtake on a Mercedes car, and there is potential in the next few races for more points opportunities.
That is it for my Sunday Standouts for the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, if you enjoyed it share it on Twitter! I will be making this a regular series for the 2021 season, so make sure follow my Twitter @castorscorner and fill out the subscribe form to keep updated!