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Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix: F1 Race Results

Who emerged victorious as F1's European season kicked off?

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Today’s victor needed to dig deep at Emilia-Romagna, as two drivers engaged in a Titanic duel at the fabled Imola circuit. 

Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix: F1 Race Results (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix: F1 Race Results (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)

Tributes to the incomparable Ayrton Senna and Austrian Roland Raztenberger dominated pre-race proceedings in Emilia-Romagna as F1 marked thirty years since F1’s darkest weekend in 1994. Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel took to the track in one of Senna’s most iconic: the McLaren MP4/8, wowing the capacity crowd.

Focus quickly turned back to the race, with some surprise casualties needing a reversal in fortune after a difficult qualifying. While Max Verstappen started on pole position, teammate Sergio Perez only managed P11. He would need to fight back through the field on a track where overtaking is difficult.

But the driver with the most challenging afternoon ahead was Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard’s shock Q1 elimination became worse on Sunday when Aston Martin confirmed Alonso would start from the pit lane after the team opted to make setup changes to his AMR24.

Oscar Piastri’s elation at starting on the front row was tempered by a three-place grid penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1. The Australian would start the race P5, while the second McLaren of Lando Norris moved into P2. The British driver aimed to take two consecutive wins for a revitalised McLaren.

Ferrari needed a strong result on home ground. The Scuderia left qualifying feeling disappointed, as neither car could get on the front row. They, too, targeted victory.

Lights out

Norris got the better start but could not prevent Max Verstappen from leading into Tamburello. Behind, Piastri defended from Russell, the action was down the field.

Lewis Hamilton managed to get ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who dropped down the order after a poor start and ended the lap in P9. Perez started on the hard tyres and got past Daniel Ricciardo, moving into the top ten. He prepared for a long afternoon.

The move of the start belonged to Lance Stroll, who passed the Alpine of Esteban Ocon under braking for Tosa. Ocon left the door wide open for the Canadian, and despite slight contact between the two, Stroll was through. Unfortunately, Stroll would fall back behind later in the lap.

Fernando Alonso joined after the field cleared Tamburello. But with no dramas on the first lap, he was still in last place, hoping to pick his way through the field.

DRS and Tactics

After the first lap, the field settled down, all except Max Verstappen, who began to set fastest lap after fastest lap. Norris began to drop back, two seconds behind after lap 9.

The second McLaren of Piastri began to hound the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. By lap ten, he was in range. With the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc disappearing, Sainz lost his buffer. The two resumed their duel from Miami as Piastri closed on the straights but could not pass.

Albon made an early stop but had only three tyres fitted properly. He made it back to the pits, but his race was now ruined. Ricciardo became the first car within the points to stop, fitting the hard tyres. Hulkenberg was next, losing track position to Tsunoda, enjoying an on-form weekend.

Back out in front, Verstappen continued to extend his lead, moving five seconds clear of Norris by lap 16. Red Bull now had a window of opportunity to pit the Dutchman and cover off both McLaren and Ferrari.

McLaren and Ferrari watched and pushed each other hard. Leclerc was told he was moving to Plan B, and began to slowly eat into Norris’s 1.7 advantage over the Ferrari. The pit window for the top six although open, was delayed due to traffic concerns.

If Piastri pitted, he would emerge into traffic. The same applied to Ferrari, who would need to cover off the McLaren. It was now a question of who blinked first.

Further down the field, Perez ran wide into Rivazza, taking a trip across the gravel. Although he did not lose a position, he lost five seconds, which would cost him later on.

Albon’s pit stop misdemeanour caught up with him, the stewards awarding the Williams driver a ten second stop go penalty for his earlier incident.

Red Bull vs McLaren vs Ferrari

Norris pitted on lap 23, and inititally looked like he emerged in clear air. But Sergio Perez powered down the main straight, and overtook the McLaren.  He would only be held up for one lap as he surged past.

Ferrari and Red Bull reacted immediately, as the McLarens began to light up the timesheets. Perez became a moving roadblock for both Leclerc and Perez. Sainz pulled in on lap 28, hoping he had done enough to stay ahead of Piastri, but lost to both. The Spaniard now had to battle past Perez, then catch up to his t teammate and Piastri.

With the stops now complete, Verstappen now led from Norris by six seconds, from Leclerc and Sainz, who past Perez after just one lap behind the Red Bull. Perez continued to go backwards, as George Russell surged his Mercedes past the Mexican a lap later.

Further back, Tsunoda pulled off a bold move on the Williams of Logan Sargeant. The RB driver was not finished overtaking yet, passing the Sauber of Zhou Guanyu and setting off after the Haas of Kevin Magussen. Neither car had pitted yet. Williams’s afternoon deteriorated further as Albon complained of engine issues, now a whole lap behind the rest of the field.

At the front Norris became concerned at an apparent lack of pace, McLaren informing its driver that his rivals were using more tyres than him. Norris ominously responded he had no pace.

Degradation and daring

Hamilton became the latest driver to catch and pass Perez. The Mexican pitted on lap 38 after a long stint, re-joining in P11 but now on faster medium tyres. He passed Daniel Ricciardo within a lap, and was now back in the points and began to close on his rivals, passing Hulkenberg a lap later.

With all cars now having made their mandatory stops, the waiting game had begun to see if the top runners would see a drop off in performance as rapid as Perez.

McLaren’s pace continued to deteriorate, as pushed hard, the gap between Norris and Leclerc closing to within a second after just three laps. Meanwhile Carlos Sainz closed on Piastri for P4, giving hope to the capacity Tifosi crowd. The four cars engaged in an intense duel, Leclerc pushing hard and running wide over the Variante Alta chicane.

Perez’s progress slowed by lap 49, 28 seconds behind 7th placed Lewis Hamilton, and unable to make any further progress. The major battles were in the lower order as the race entered its closing stages. Lance Stroll targeted taking P10 from Tsunoda, and recover something from a poor afternoon from Aston Martin. He surged passed on lap 51.

George Russell pitted for medium tyres, still clear of Perez, but twenty seconds back from his teammate. Should Hamilton pit, P6 would be handed to the seven-time champion. Alex Albon retired after a poor day for Williams.

Verstappen became the latest to suffer from tyre degradation and graining. Norris took just under a second out of Verstappen in one lap, then began to close on multiple laps. The McLaren looked visibly hooked up, and by lap 57 had moved to within two seconds, Verstappen complaining of the car not turning properly.

Max vs Lando

The last five laps became a Titanic battle of wits between Norris and Verstappen. With no lapped cars ahead, it was now a straight fight between Red Bull and McLaren.

A scruffy lap for Norris maintained the gap at 1.6 seconds, giving Verstappen some breathing space. Norris’s tyres seemingly did not enjoy running wide, as the British driver complained of losing all grip.

Despite losing grip, Norris closed to within 1.2 seconds, but ran wide out of Tamburello, almost going into the gravel. With just one lap left, the gap was now under a second.

But with precious few spots to overtake, Verstappen held of to take victory by less than a second. Norris took P2, Leclerc, P3, Piastri P4, Sainz P5, Hamilton P6, Russell P7, Perez P8, Stroll P9, with Yuki Tsunoda completing the top ten.

Final Classification

Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images 

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