With unexpected rain and unprepared teams and drivers, the Imola Grand Prix was another incredible race. With drama from start to end, the race had constant thrills and a lot of very dramatic moments.
There was drama before the race even started when rain started falling in Imola. The race was almost over for Leclerc after spinning through the standing water on the way to the grid. This wasn’t the only concern though, with serious issues for both Aston Martin cars. The resolution for Stroll, whose brakes were on fire, was very odd to hear as they simply said drive quickly to put out the flames. This clearly worked as his team were able to get his car ready to race within the allowed time frame, but his teammate did not have the same luck.
There was early confusion surrounding what the issue was for Vettel this afternoon which led to him being forced to start from the pit lane. It appeared that he had a brake by wire failure, very similar to his teammates, but his couldn’t be fixed as quickly. The team must have some serious questions after such a poor performance again today, which included a penalty for Seb for not having his tyres on within 5 minutes of the start.
This was just the beginning of what became a completely crazy race at Imola! The lights went out and immediately Verstappen was outperforming Hamilton, taking him into the lead within the first couple of corners. Lewis did not accept this and tried to fight back, making contact with Max which led to damage. This didn’t drastically impact Lewis’ race it seemed, however. One driver who was not as lucky was Latifi. While he survived a spin into the gravel, he made contact with rookie Mazepin and spun into the wall, ending his race and bringing out the safety car.
With a slow safety car leading to cold tyres, Haas’ other rookie Schumacher also spun while trying to warm his tyres on track. This seriously impacted his race however, as he lost his front wing in front of the pit exit, leading to the pit lane being closed. This meant that the young German driver had to complete two more, very slow laps before being able to replace his front wing. It did lead to the sweetest moment of the day however, when we all discovered that he has the kindest engineer on the grid.
One strange error from the safety car came from Sergio Perez. The Red Bull driver received a 10 second penalty after overtaking drivers after going off the track. As such an experienced driver, no one could understand quite why this happened. With such wet conditions and unexpected strategy changes, even these mature drivers can clearly make mistakes and he received a harsh penalty for it.
With the track drying, many drivers considered moving to slick tyres. One driver who took far too long to decide which tyres to move to was Pierre Gasly, whose wet tyre gamble did not pay off as he moved further down the order as the laps went on.
Pit stop dramas:
After Vettel pitted, Verstappen and most other drivers quickly followed, although Hamilton stayed out. He tried to perform an overtake on Verstappen using pit stops but was ultimately unable to do so. After a very slow pit stop on the following lap, he was unable to keep Verstappen behind who was then ahead for the rest of the race.
Drama for Mercedes:
While trying to lap drivers, Lewis Hamilton made a serious error on the wet part of the track which led to him spinning into the gravel. Despite picking up a lot of damage and taking a lot of time to get out of the gravel, he was able to continue racing. This wasn’t the worst part of this lap for Mercedes though. Valtteri Bottas and George Russell collided in dramatic fashion. There is a lot of controversy over whose fault it was. Let me know what you think in the comments or on social media. I simply can’t decide, as it is so unclear whether Bottas squeezed Russell or not. Even the drivers can’t agree on what happened! All we do know is that George has terrible luck with Imola, having crashed last year under safety car.
After a red flag to clear the debris and confirm that both drivers were okay, the race restarted. Max Verstappen took off and had a massive lead within minutes, one which couldn’t be reduced by any driver. Norris immediately took P2 from Leclerc, who then spent a lot of the following laps trying to take it back. Perez had another unfortunate incident, spinning onto the gravel and down the race order.
At the same time, Lewis was fighting back from P9. He was quickly behind Leclerc and pushing for an overtake. This stopped Leclerc’s fight for second which became a fight to keep third. Lewis soon overtook Charles and was hunting down Lando, who put up a very strong fight but was not able to keep Lewis behind. He was able to finish the race in third, getting a well-deserved podium place after such an exceptional weekend in Imola.