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Emilia Romagna Grand Prix 2021

Winners and losers from the F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

The 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix proved to be an eventful and tricky race for many - but who were the winners and losers in an afternoon of navigating difficult conditions?

Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Contentpool

The 2021 F1 season might only be in its infancy but it has already provided some spectacular racing. An eventful afternoon unfolded at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen emerging as the victor ahead of rival Lewis Hamilton.

It was a successful day for some, whilst others will be keen to move on to the next race. Here are the main winners and losers from Sunday at Imola.

The winners

Max Verstappen

Verstappen may have been left feeling slightly disappointed by his third place in qualifying, but soon managed to bounce back in some style in the race. The Dutchman took an early lead, getting the jump on both Hamilton and Sergio Perez, and went on to deliver a mature and near flawless drive.

There was a brief wobble following the restart after a red flag, but Verstappen otherwise appeared in control. This was made all the more impressive given that it proved to be a difficult afternoon for most of the drivers in terms of managing tricky weather conditions.

It's very early days in the title battle, but Verstappen is already just one point behind Hamilton and proved in Imola that he is more than a match for the Mercedes driver.

Lewis Hamilton

Speaking of Hamilton, the seven-times world champion somehow reversed his fortunes during the race after a slide off the track damaged his front wing. The incident saw him slip down the order, and it looked like being a tough weekend for Mercedes following Valtteri Bottas' crash.

Yet, ironically, Bottas' incident in a way proved to be the remedy for Hamilton. With the race red flagged in order to clear up the debris, Hamilton was able to work his way back through the field after the restart and impressively still managed to take second place.

As Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after the race: "When we thought the race was completely lost, then Lewis' unbelievable driving just saved all of us today."

Lando Norris

Norris was voted Driver Of The Day by fans and rightly so after a strong afternoon saw him finish in third, securing the second podium finish of his Formula 1 career.

The McLaren driver put in a consistent performance throughout the race and outperformed teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the process. His result makes up for the disappointment he felt with himself following qualifying on Saturday, when a potential third place on the grid was taken away due to him exceeding track limits.

Norris' impressive showing at Imola will surely add to his growing confidence, as well as giving him an early edge in the inter-team battle with Ricciardo.

Ferrari

With 2020 proving to be Ferrari's worst season in F1 for 40 years, the team will be hugely relieved to see signs of progress so soon this season. Charles Leclerc continued with the promise he showed in qualifying by finishing the race in fourth.

The Monegasque admitted to feeling frustrated by his drop in pace following the mid-race red flag, yet took hope from his early performance where he at times looked to be in contention for a podium spot.

Meanwhile Carlos Sainz managed to improve after his surprise elimination from Q2 saw him start from 11th on the grid. The Spaniard finished the race in fifth, only one spot behind his teammate. The Scuderia will surely be pleased with such a solid result.

Kimi Raikkonen

Whilst he may not have had much attention from the cameras, Raikkonen quietly put in an impressive performance in the Alfa Romeo. The Finn used the experience garnered from his 18 seasons in F1 to navigate the mixed weather conditions and progressed from 16th on the grid to finish in ninth place.

Unfortunately this result was later taken away when Raikkonen was given a 30-second time penalty for a restart infringement. Yet in terms of his race pace, it was a strong showing. Not only did the Iceman outperform teammate Antonio Giovinazzi but he also managed to keep the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso behind him on the track.

Raikkonen might be F1's elder statesman at 41 but he has once again proved that he can never be ruled out.

The losers

Sergio Perez

What started out as a strong weekend for Perez ended badly. The Mexican had impressed when he qualified in second place on Saturday, becoming the first of Max Verstappen's teammates to outqualify him since 2018.

However, this form did not continue on race day. After losing out to Verstappen and Hamilton at the start, Perez later spun in the wet conditions and found himself in the gravel trap. This set the tone for a slightly scrappy afternoon, which saw the Red Bull man finish down in 12th.

Team principal Christian Horner was sympathetic to Perez's struggles and voiced his optimism at the pace that the Mexican had shown at times. Perhaps he will bounce back at the third event of the season in Portugal.

Valtteri Bottas

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was most definitely one to forget for Bottas. After qualifying down in eighth - quite a way from teammate Hamilton on pole - the Finn needed to bounce back on Sunday.

Unfortunately this didn't quite go to plan. His race came to an end at the half-way point when a huge collision with Williams' George Russell caused them both to retire, as well as bringing out the red flags. Both drivers blamed each other for the crash.

With his future prospects beyond 2021 uncertain, such an incident will not be helpful for Bottas.

George Russell

Russell lost out on a potential points finish - which would have been his first with Williams - in the incident with Bottas. The Briton could not hide his fury after the crash; not only did he share an explicit message on team radio but he was also seen angrily confronting Bottas.

After the embarrassment of his crash behind the safety car during Formula 1's last visit to Imola in 2020, Russell would have been hoping to make up for the past this year. Unfortunately he instead added to his difficult history with the track.

Williams

The crash was not only a disappointment for Russell but it also added to what had previously been a promising weekend for Williams going horribly wrong. Both Russell and teammate Nicholas Latifi had reached Q2 in Saturday's qualifying, with Latifi particularly impressive following a strong showing in practice.

That promise quickly disappeared on Sunday though. Latifi became the first retirement of the Grand Prix when he crashed at high speed after tangling with the Haas of Nikita Mazepin.

Russell's incident then came midway through the race, meaning that Williams had lost both of their cars well before the chequered flag. A sorry end to what had been such a good start to proceedings.

Toto Wolff

Of course Wolff was pleased with Hamilton's resurgence to second place. But in terms of future plans for Mercedes, Sunday's race must have given the team principal a huge headache.

Bottas and Russell are both in the frame for a 2022 seat. Russell memorably proved his mettle alongside the Finn when he joined the Silver Arrows as Hamilton's stand-in for the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020, and it has since been thought that his chances of landing a place at the team are high.

Yet the messy incident between Bottas and Russell - and their anger towards each other afterwards - could perhaps make Wolff think even more carefully about any potential driver line-up in the future.

"I keep teasing [Russell], I've said if he does a good job he can be in a Mercedes, if not we're doing the Renault Clio Cup," Wolff joked to Sky Sports F1 after the race. "Today we are more close to Renault Clio Cup."

Russell might want to bounce back fast from the controversial crash if he is to avoid that fate.

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