Norris: “Right decision” for soft tyres at Imola F1 race restart

Norris had been in third place for the restart on lap 35, after the race was red-flagged following a clash between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas, tucked in behind leader Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

After Verstappen had nearly spun at the restart, it meant Leclerc didn’t find a useful tow behind the Red Bull driver and, coupled with excessive wheelspin for the Ferrari on medium tyres, Norris took advantage on the softs to pull alongside Leclerc and claim second place.

Despite losing second place to a recovering Lewis Hamilton late on, Norris still secured the second podium of his F1 career in third place after maintaining performance in his soft tyres to the finish.

After the race, Norris admitted he hadn’t been confident about using the softs for the restart but thanked his team on the decision as he kept clear of Leclerc in the closing stages.

“We made the decision to go on the softs and I wasn’t so confident to get the tyres working and it is not an easy track to overtake on, but I think it was the right decision,” Norris said.

“Apart from Max’s little moment, I thought Charles was going to drive ahead of Max on the restart as he was off-track but he didn’t take advantage of that. [After that] he had a lot of wheelspin on the restart when Max went and that is the fault of the mediums and their decision.

“We made the decision to go on the softs and we got a good launch, good restart and got ahead of him.

“I started saving the tyres from lap one after the restart knowing that the last couple of laps are going to be tough and they were especially with Lewis at the end.

“It was a nice little battle and nice to be racing unusual cars for us – Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari – so it is nice to go up against them. Hopefully we can have some more of that in the future.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M crosses the finish line

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M crosses the finish line

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

A podium capped an eventful Imola weekend for Norris, who was denied his best-ever F1 qualifying result of third place when his best lap in Q3 was deleted after he exceeded track limits at Turn 9, dropping the McLaren driver to seventh place.

Aside from the Q3 mistake, which Norris insisted on taking the full blame for, the 21-year-old was delighted by his race weekend having moved up to third place in the early F1 world championship standings.

“On the whole I am pretty pleased both for the team and for myself, apart from Q3 it was a pretty perfect weekend,” he said.

“We improved the car a lot over the past couple of days from Friday into Saturday going through the sessions and we didn’t start on the best foot but we improved a lot.

“I felt I did a very good job in qualifying and gave myself an opportunity in Q3 and to be pretty close to pole position. Effectively P3, then get put P7, so it was near-perfect from my side and the team’s so I was disappointed. So, to come back to third today after a pretty eventful race was rewarding for myself but more importantly for the team.”

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Raikkonen loses points after post-race penalty at F1 Imola race

Stewards determined the Alfa Romeo driver breached regulations having failed to enter the pitlane for the restart of the race after the red-flag period caused by the clash between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell.

On the lap prior to the restart following the race suspension, Raikkonen spun his Alfa Romeo at Turn 3. Sporting regulations dictate that a driver may retake his position as long as this is achieved prior to the first safety car line.

If this is not completed, then the driver must enter the pitlane and rejoin the race once the entire field has passed on the restart.

As a result, Raikkonen has lost his ninth place finish, dropping him to 13th, while promoting the Alpine duo of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso to ninth and 10th respectively. It ensures two-time world champion Alonso will score a point in only his second race back after two years away.

“On the lap before the restart following the race suspension, Raikkonen spun at Turn 3,” the stewards’ report explains.

“Art 42.6 indicates that the driver may retake his position, so long as he does so prior to the first safety car line (SC1). At first the team instructed him to do so, but then told him to hold his position.

“Art 42.6 then indicates that should a driver fail to take his position he must enter the pitlane and can only rejoin the race once the whole field has passed the pit exit.

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, in the pit lane

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, in the pit lane

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“Art 42.12 indicates that during a rolling start, once the safety car turns its lights out, ‘No driver may overtake another car on the track until he passes the Line…’

“In this case, the driver caught up to the cars ahead of him between Turn 13 and 14, but the safety car turned its lights out at approximately Turn 10.

“This would appear to be a contradictory instruction and the team instructed the driver to not regain his position, fearing that this would create a safety issue in the wet conditions.

“They radioed the Race Director, but there was no time for a response between their call and the restart.

“The Stewards consider it to be a further contradiction that when the cars are behind the safety car during a safety car period, they are prohibited from passing, but when they are behind the safety car for a restart, they are permitted to – even though the reasons for a rolling start are that the track conditions don’t permit a standing start.

“However, the rule requiring a car to enter the pitlane if it fails to regain its position is consistent amongst several championships, has been in the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations for several years and has been consistently applied.”

The sanction follows a five-second penalty for Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who was judged to have gained a lasting advantage by passing Pierre Gasly while off the track.

The Canadian has been demoted from seventh to eighth on the official race results.

Revised F1 Emilia Romagna GP race results

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Stroll drops to eighth place with post-race F1 penalty at Emilia Romagna GP

The Aston Martin driver endured an eventful race at Imola while making the most of favourable damp conditions to finish seventh at the chequered flag.

However, Stroll was judged to have breached regulations when overtaking AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly following a post-race investigation, resulting in a five-second penalty.

It was deemed Stroll left the track at the Tamburello chicane while attempting to overtake Gasly earning “a lasting advantage” from his off-track excursion.

As a result of the decision, Stroll will drop a position to eighth behind Gasly, who inherits seventh in the official race results.

“The Stewards were informed after the race of an alleged breach. Having reviewed the video and heard from the drivers, the Stewards conclude that Car 18 was not able to complete his pass on car 10 at Turn 2/3 without leaving the track completely shortcutting turn 3 and returning on the track ahead of car 10,” read a stewards report.

“He then failed to give the position back. In hearing from the drivers the Stewards accepted that car 18 was ahead of car 10 at the point he left the track, but that he was in that position because of a manoeuvre that he was not able to complete on the track given the wet conditions.”

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR21, in the gravel

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR21, in the gravel

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The penalty follows what proved to be a challenging race for the Canadian driver, which began with a brake cooling issue before the start.

He was then struck by a gear sync issue that affected gearshifts through the entirety of the 63-lap contest.

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Speaking prior to the penalty being issued, Stroll thought he made the most of the conditions and was glad to reach the finish given the troubles encountered during the race.

“We took advantage of some opportunities today,” said Stroll. “The weather was going to make things a bit interesting out there. The car was pretty well balanced this weekend but we are still lacking some pace if you look at the competition out there AlphaTauri, McLaren, they just look really quick so we have some work to do.

“It [the gear sync issue] was really killing me out there. I was getting all these poor shifts constantly throughout the race.

“I was happy we made it to the flag and managed to hold onto seventh as it was costing us a lot of lap time and quite worrying.”

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Leclerc explains why he didn't pass Verstappen on Imola F1 restart

Verstappen was leading the pack around for a rolling start following the race’s suspension after the massive accident that eliminated Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, but lost control of his Red Bull at the first Rivazza turn just before he was due to resume racing speed.

The Red Bull speared left over the kerbs on the corner’s inside, but critically appeared to keep at least some part of one of his right side wheels on the track throughout the incident – his right front being back on the track when his right rear briefly came off.

When asked by Autosport if he had considered passing Verstappen or simply chose to back off, Leclerc replied “I did both” before explaining he was right not to try passing because of Verstappen just being still on the road ahead.

In any case, if Leclerc had gone by, Verstappen would have been allowed to try and get back past so long as he did so before the first safety car line, as rolling start restarts are considered to be the same conditions as a race formation lap – something Leclerc had benefitted from when he spun off at Acque Minerali ahead of the initial start.

Leclerc would likely have not been penalised for overtaking Verstappen had he done so as a result of the rules distinction for rolling starts, unlike the race’s earlier safety car overtaking incident involving Sergio Perez, who “upon rejoining the track [after going off at Piratella under the Nicholas Latifi/Mick Schumacher safety car], he then passed the two cars that had proceeded on the track past the point of his incident, which he was not entitled to do”, per the Imola event stewards.

“I considered it,” Leclerc continued, “at one point, but I at the same time backed off. I think looking back at it, it was the right choice because I think he always had one wheel on the track.

“And so, I backed off and because he didn’t completely spin, obviously, as we’ve seen. So, I thought about it but it was too late and he was already back in front.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen described his “moment in the restart” as “a big one”, before joking that “there was some secret tyre warming going on!”

McLaren’s Lando Norris, who was following the pair and overtook Leclerc when he lost ground to Verstappen when the leader finally took the pack back to racing speed just before the finish line a few seconds after the Rivazza incident, disagreed with Leclerc’s decision.

“I had a great view of it – it’s quite funny,” he said. “I think Charles could’ve gone past, in my opinion.

“At that stage, Max was out of control and going left and Charles can’t just hit the brakes and slow down and stop, at some point he has to go past Max because he was facing the barrier for a lot of the corner.

“I dunno – we have to maybe ask the guys in charge what the exact ruling is.

“But going off track, then it’s all four wheels off track and the example of yesterday [where Norris lost his best Q3 time for fractionally running too wide at Piratella].

“But at the same time, Max was going very slow so it’s like Leclerc could’ve driven past him at that point.

“I’m not sure. If I was in P2 I think I would’ve gone for it, because you have a chance of winning then. So, it’s a risk [that’s] worth it.”

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Bottas: Russell has “quite a theory” over Imola F1 defending after crash

Bottas and Russell crashed out of Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after colliding on the approach to Turn 2 when battling over ninth position.

Russell was gaining rapidly on Bottas down the main straight and moved to the right-hand side of the track to try and overtake, only to hit a wet patch and lose control of his car.

Russell’s Williams speared to the left and into the Mercedes of Bottas, causing significant damage to both cars and leaving debris strewn across the track, causing a red flag.

Both drivers were quick to blame each other, with Russell claiming Bottas broke a gentleman’s agreement over minor movements at high-speed.

Russell also questioned why Bottas was defending so aggressively over ninth place, saying: “Perhaps if it was another driver, he wouldn’t have. So that’s what went through my mind.”

Russell has been tipped as a possible successor to Bottas at Mercedes, potentially as early as 2022, given he is part of its young driver programme.

Asked about Russell’s comment, Bottas replied: “Sorry, I lost my aluminium foil hat somewhere. It’s quite a theory.

“I’m always going to defend to any driver, I’m not keen to lose any positions. That was normal defending. It could have been a lot more aggressive if needed.

Marshals clear the damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from the gravel trap

Marshals clear the damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from the gravel trap

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

“I don’t agree with any of that at all. I was doing my thing. No matter who I would have been defending, it would have been exactly the same.

“Obviously he knew exactly that it was going to be damp there, because we have gone there lap after lap. And I knew as well, and it was just not a place to go in those conditions on slicks.

“But he still went there. It was his choice to go there, I was doing my job trying to defend, and I’m not going to move away and give him the dry patch back. That’s how it goes.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff refused to fully apportion blame to either driver, but said that Russell had “lots to learn” and should have not tried to overtake where he did.

Bottas spoke to both Wolff and to Russell about the incident, meeting with the latter when they spoke to the stewards investigating the clash, who opted to take no action.

“The overall feeling is that I’m not one to blame for that crash, for sure,” Bottas said.

“I don’t want to speak anything about our private discussions with Toto. But the feeling is I’m definitely not one to blame on that.

“But the main thing we need to focus on is why I was in that position. Obviously I had quite a struggle with the inters, being stuck behind Lance [Stroll] all through the inter section of the race.

“When I stopped, obviously got pressure from the guys behind who stopped earlier and got their tyres working already. That [tyre] warm-up was the bigger issue.”

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F1 stewards take no action over ‘racing incident’ Bottas and Russell crash

Bottas and Russell crashed out of Sunday’s race at Imola after colliding on the approach to Turn 2 when battling over ninth position.

Russell was gaining rapidly on Bottas down the main straight and moved to the right-hand side of the track to try and overtake, only to hit a wet patch and lose control of his car.

Russell’s Williams speared to the left and into the Mercedes of Bottas, causing significant damage to both cars and leaving debris strewn across the track, causing a red flag.

Both drivers were quick to blame each other, with Russell claiming Bottas broke a gentleman’s agreement over minor movements at high-speed.

The stewards confirmed shortly after the incident that they would be investigating the matter after the race, meeting with both drivers and representatives from Mercedes and Williams.

In a bulletin issued by the stewards after the meeting, it was confirmed that no further action would be taken following a review of the videos and car telemetry.

The stewards deemed that Bottas “maintained his line throughout the incident along the right-hand side of the dry line, leaving at least a full car’s width to the right at all times”.

When Russell moved to pass Bottas on the right, “the gap between them and the right-hand side of the track decreased”, leading to the crash.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, and George Russell, Williams FW43B

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, and George Russell, Williams FW43B

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

The stewards wrote: “At no time did either car manoeuvre erratically. The track appeared to be not especially wet through Turn 1 but at the point of closest approach to the right hand-side of the track, the right-hand side tyres of car 63 hit an especially damp patch and the car snap yawed, bearing in mind that the car had low downforce in the rear with the DRS open.

“The stewards conclude that the accident was a racing incident considering the conditions and take no further action.”

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Asked by Autosport about how he defended, Bottas denied that he had broken any agreement between the drivers.

“I don’t see it that way at all, I didn’t make any sudden moves,” Bottas said.

“I think it’s quite clear from his onboard as well, I always left a space. No, from my side, it was clean.

“Of course I’m defending, I’m not going to make any room for him. But also when I race, I have respect. So I see it differently to him.”

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Wolff: Russell has “lots to learn” after F1 crash with Bottas at Imola

Williams driver Russell collided with Bottas when trying to overtake for ninth place at high-speed during Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, resulting in a sizeable crash.

The incident left debris strewn across the track and caused the race to be red-flagged, and sparked angry reactions from both Russell and Bottas, who blamed each other.

Mercedes team principal Wolff said that, while there was “never such a situation in life where one is 100% to blame and the other zero”, he questioned why Russell made the move that he did, particularly as a Mercedes young driver.

“The whole situation should have never happened,” Wolff said. “Valtteri had a bad first 30 laps, and shouldn’t have been there. But George should have never launched into this manoeuvre, considering that the track was drying up.

“It meant taking risks, and the other car is a Mercedes in front of him. In any driver’s development, for a young driver, you must never lose this global perspective.

“So yeah, lots to learn for him I guess.”

Russell has been a member of Mercedes’ young driver programme since 2017, and has been tipped as a possible future driver for the senior team.

Marshals clear the damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from the gravel trap

Marshals clear the damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from the gravel trap

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Wolff felt Russell should have handled the situation differently given he was fighting against a Mercedes car.

“You need to see that there is a Mercedes and it is wet, it bears a certain risk to overtake,” Wolff said.

“And the odds are against him anyway when the track is drying up. Now I don’t want him to try to prove anything to us, because one thing I can say since knowing Valtteri for five years, he’s not trying to prove anything.”

Following the incident, Russell questioned why Bottas made the move he did when battling for ninth place, saying: “Perhaps if it was another driver, he wouldn’t have. So that’s what went through my mind.”

Russell has been tipped as a possible successor to Bottas at Mercedes, potentially as early as 2022.

When told the quote by Autosport, Wolff said the suggestion was “bullshit”.

“The whole situation is absolutely not amusing for us, to be honest,” Wolff said.

“It’s quite a big shunt. Our car is almost a write-off in a cost-cap environment that is certainly what we needed, and probably it’s going to limit upgrades that we’re able to do.

“Simply the fact that we ended there by losing it in the wet, because there was no contact, losing it on the wet, and making both cars crash out is not what I expect to see.”

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Hamilton: Rushing to pass lapped F1 traffic triggered off in Emilia Romagna GP

The F1 world champion was in a tight fight with Max Verstappen for the lead at Imola as they worked their way through backmarkers on the damp but drying track.

But, as Hamilton dived off line to get past George Russell, he couldn’t slow himself down enough on the damp track surface and ran off through the gravel trap and into the barriers.

The Mercedes driver managed to reverse back on to the track and benefited soon afterwards when a red flag was brought out for the big crash between Russell and Valtteri Bottas.

That allowed the team to fully repair his car and, although he resumed the race down in ninth spot, he charged his way through to finish second.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, rejoins after an off

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, rejoins after an off

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Reflecting on his moment at Tosa, Hamilton said afterwards: “There was only one dry line. And I guess I was in a bit too much of a hurry to get by everyone.

“I came into the inside and I could see it was wet. I was trying to stop but the thing wouldn’t stop and it sent me off.

“I was a bit unfortunate but I’m really, really grateful that we got to get going again, and to get some points for the team is really important today.”

A non-score at Imola would have gifted rival Verstappen a healthy lead in the world championship, but the bigger picture was not on Hamilton’s mind as he waited during the red flag period.

“I wasn’t thinking about it,” he said. “I was just trying to get over the gutting kind of feeling it is when you make a mistake, and just moving on from it and learning from it real quick.

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“You don’t have time to dwell on it, so that’s what I did: got back into racing spirit. I didn’t know whether or not we’ll be able to overtake, because again offline was going to be wet. But still we had some really good fun battles with all the guys.”

Hamilton recovered to grab second from McLaren’s Lando Norris in the closing stages, and said he was thrilled that his former team was doing so well.

“Firstly, congratulations to Max,” said Hamilton. “He did a fantastic job today and just solid work from him, and also to Lando, what an awesome job. It’s so great to see McLaren back up there.

“On my side, it was not the greatest of days. So, first time I’ve made a mistake in a long time, but I’m grateful I was able to bring the car home.”

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Russell: Bottas may not have made same F1 Imola move on another driver

Russell and Bottas crashed out while battling for ninth place halfway through Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, colliding at high-speed on the approach to Turn 2.

Russell gained on Bottas using DRS and moved to the right-hand side of the track to try and overtake, only for Bottas to make a slight move to the right.

It caused Russell to lose control of his car and spear into Bottas’s Mercedes, leaving both cars out of the race and causing a red flag.

Both drivers were left fuming by the incident. Russell tapped Bottas’s helmet when he went to his cockpit to vent his anger, later saying that he asked the Finn “if he was trying to kill us both”. Bottas responded by showing his middle finger.

Bottas claimed after the incident that it was “clearly” Russell’s mistake and that he left enough room, but Russell felt Bottas had broken a gentleman’s agreement.

“We’ve had this gentleman’s agreement that when there’s a faster car approaching with the DRS, you don’t jolt the steering wheel at the very last moment,” Russell said.

George Russell, Williams

George Russell, Williams

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

“I pulled out, I got the slipstream, I pulled out, and just as I pulled out, Valtteri moved very slightly, and that just put me off-line and put me onto the wet stuff.

“In perfectly dry conditions on a very ordinary circuit, it’s dangerous, let alone on a very narrow track when we are turning and there’s wet patches. So an unfortunate incident.

“But equally, it’s been inevitable, an incident like that would occur when drivers make small moves like this. It’s the smallest of moves, but when you’re going at 220 mph, and you’re going 30 mph quicker than the car ahead, it’s massive.”

Russell questioned why Bottas would make such an aggressive move when battling for ninth place, and pondered whether he would have acted differently with another driver.

Russell is a member of Mercedes’ junior programme, and has been tipped as a possible successor to Bottas at the team in the future.

“Obviously I was very pissed off and frustrated with him at the time,” Russell said.

“I’m fighting for P9, a P9 for him is absolutely nothing. Almost meaningless. He did a move that you would do if you were fighting for victory on the last lap of the race.

“It begs the question why he would do that for P9. Perhaps if it was another driver, he wouldn’t have. So that’s what went through my mind.

“Like I said, he’s not fully to blame, I don’t think I’m fully to blame. But it could have been avoided. I think this is a good example for the stewards, very minor movements like this will create crashes, and here we are.”

Russell said he had “no doubts” Bottas felt he was to blame for the incident, but said he was aware of the right etiquette when battling at high speed.

“I’m sure from his perspective, he feels it’s my fault, I’ve got no doubts about that,” Russell said.

“Equally, he knows the closing speeds of these cars, when you’re behind with slipstream and DRS. He knows that is not the correct thing to be doing.

“Like I said, if you’re fighting for victory on the last lap of the race, maybe. But not in conditions like this and not mid-race when he is P9, which is nothing.”

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F1 Emilia Romagna GP: Verstappen wins thriller as Hamilton recovers to second

Verstappen and Hamilton clashed at the race’s opening corners, with the latter then having to put in a recovery drive after sliding off into the gravel at the Tosa hairpin just before the red flag shortly before half distance thanks to the massive accident involving his Mercedes team-mate.

Rain falling in the first half of the Imola lap in the hour ahead of the race start meant most of the cars left the grid on intermediate tyres.

From third at the start, Verstappen made a perfect getaway to pull alongside Sergio Perez when the lights went out, and was quickly able to challenge polesitter Hamilton – nearly running onto the grass on his left-hand side – as they shot down to the Tamburello chicane.

Verstappen was ahead by the braking zone but Hamilton braked later to stay on the outside and the pair went side-by-side around the first left part of the sequence.

The Red Bull held the racing line and, when Hamilton determinedly kept his nose alongside, they clashed at the chicane’s second apex, damaging the Mercedes’ left-front wing endplate and forcing Hamilton to clatter over the kerbs.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen roared clear in the lead as the pack behind continued to tentatively make their way around the opening tour, which ended with the safety car being deployed after Nicholas Latifi speared into the wall exiting Acque Minerali, where he had just spun off, and pulled across the front of Nikita Mazepin’s Haas.

The race was paused until the start of lap seven of 63, an extended period as a result of Mick Schumacher losing the rear of his Haas warming his tyres in the safety car queue and knocking his front wing off on the wall near the pit exit, which was closed as the debris was cleared.

Verstappen was able stay ahead of Hamilton as the Briton looked to the outside on the run to Tamburello as they got back up to racing speed, with Charles Leclerc, who had passed Perez for third exiting the Variante Alta seconds before Latifi’s crash, also following closely in third.

But a slide exiting Acque Minerali from Hamilton gave Verstappen breathing room and he had a 3.3-second lead at the end of the first racing lap.

Verstappen quickly set about extending his advantage to the five-second mark, with Leclerc soon disappearing from Hamilton’s rear, but well clear of Perez, who was handed a 10s-time addition for overtaking under the safety car as he had slide wide at Piratella and briefly let Daniel Ricciardo and the full-wet shod Pierre Gasly get by.

Hamilton was able to keep Verstappen’s lead at around five seconds for the next phase of the race as they exchanged fastest laps while considering when to come in and change their inters to slick tyres.

Just after Verstappen had edged his advantage up to 6s approaching half distance, Hamilton was suddenly able to gain significantly, cutting the gap in half over two laps before they reached traffic at the rear of the pack.

Once they had cleared the cars in front, Verstappen’s lead was down to two seconds and, after a radio exchange with his team, he pitted for slicks at the end of lap 27.

Hamilton also came in for mediums at the end of the following lap, but the decision to stay out for a tour and the right front coming slowly off the Mercedes meant Verstappen’s lead was back up to 5.5s at the start of lap 31.

On that tour, which had started with Verstappen lapping Valtteri Bottas, running near the end of the top 10 in the second Mercedes and at the head of another pack of lapped traffic, Hamilton locked up lapping Russell at Tosa and slid into the gravel.

He went far enough to damage his front wing against the outside wall when he attempted to turn onto the escape road, which forced him to stop and slowly engage reverse and eventually go backwards out the long way onto the track.

Hamilton toured back to the pits, promoting Leclerc to second and Norris to third after Perez had dropped behind the McLaren during his penalty-addled pitstop, to change his front wing but was able to make his second stop under the safety car after Bottas and Russell’s massive accident at Tamburello.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, changes his front wing in the pits

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, changes his front wing in the pits

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The Williams driver had been closing in very fast on the outside of the Mercedes approaching the chicane’s left apex and, just before they reached the braking zone, they ran very close together.

Russell appeared to put his right-rear wheel on the grass, possibly in reaction to Bottas jinking right – the incident is to be investigated after the race – and the Briton’s car shot left and the pair were both eliminated in a huge crash into the barriers on the inside and then outside of Tamburello, where they remonstrated with each other in the gravel after coming to a stop.

The race was red flagged for 25 minutes before it was resumed at the start of lap 35, but with a rolling safety car restart instead of a second grid start – which was used at Monza and Mugello in 2020.

Verstappen dropped Leclerc when he reached the line, seconds after the Red Bull had nearly spun the lead away when he had to catch a big moment and cut across the inside of the first Rivazza turn as the safety car peeled off ahead.

The lack of tow behind Verstappen left Leclerc vulnerable to Norris and the McLaren driver – running the softs compared to the mediums on the Ferrari and Red Bull – duly claimed second at Tamburello.

Verstappen scampered clear at the front, reaching a six-second advantage by the start of lap 43, with Norris attempting to keep his softer tyres alive to the finish ahead of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr, who had been promoted by Perez spinning off behind the lead Ferrari as he ran through the Villeneuve chicane on lap 38 and dropping to P14.

In the pack behind, Hamilton was attempting a recovery drive after gaining back the lap he’d lost with his Tosa off and slow lap back to the pits thanks to the red flag.

He took the restart in ninth, immediately gaining a spot when Yuki Tsunoda spun off in front of the Mercedes at Tamburello on the first lap back to racing speed, and then picking off Lance Stroll and Ricciardo in quick succession once he’d fired up his mediums and benefitted from the DRS power into Tamburello.

Hamilton took a while to close in on the Ferraris ahead but eventually passed Sainz to set up a tense chase into the closing stages, with Norris trying to hold off Leclerc as Hamilton came up behind them.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, battles with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

When Leclerc dropped back and lost DRS behind Norris at the start of lap 55, Hamilton didn’t hesitate and took third blasting along the outside ahead of the Tamburello braking zone and set off after the McLaren.

Norris held on for a further five laps but, in the end, Hamilton was able to make a near-identical move with DRS at the start of lap 60 to retake the second place he had lost nearly half the race earlier.

Verstappen was already 20s up the road and the two leaders exchanged fastest laps in the final few tours, which eventually went to Hamilton, as Verstappen won by 22s, with Norris coming home 1.7s behind the Mercedes.

Leclerc and Sainz, who had had several offs during the wet opening stages, took fourth and fifth, ahead of Ricciardo and Stroll – the Aston Martin driver claiming points after his car was hurriedly repaired when its brakes caught fire on the laps to the grid as the rain initially fell.

Gasly ended up eighth having been a rolling roadblock on his full wets early on, with Kimi Raikkonen ninth but facing a post-race investigation for a possible rolling start restart infraction.

Esteban Ocon took the final point in 10th ahead of his Alpine team-mate Fernando Alonso, who had knocked his front wing off sliding off at Tosa on the pre-race laps ahead of the start and later had a spin in the aftermath of the Bottas/Russell shunt.

Perez ended up 12th ahead of Tsunoda, while Sebastian Vettel was a late retirement with a suspected gearbox issue.

Result – 63 laps

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