Formula One champion Max Verstappen returned to the top of the podium on Sunday with his second win of the season and his 22nd career win after dominating the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix from beginning to end.
Verstappen, who won pole after recording the fastest lap during sprint qualifying, dominated the Ferrari’s of Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz Jr and cruised to victory 16.527 seconds ahead of teammate and 34.834 seconds ahead of third-place finisher, Lando Norris.
The one/two finish was a welcome relief for Red Bull after struggling during the opening races of the season. The day was not without difficulty as drivers had to contend with an overcast, dreary day with misting conditions. However, the conditions seemed to have little impact on the Dutchman as the weekend saw him earning the maximum points possible.
Verstappen also added an extra point to his total for the season with a win during Saturday’s sprint qualifying race, and that proved somewhat of an embarrassment for Ferrari, who was hoping for a hometown win.
“It’s always tough to achieve something like that, said Verstappen. We were on it. You never know with the weather how competitive you are going to be, but I think as a team we did everything well and this one-two is very deserved.”
The weekend was a complete disaster for a team that has been having one of its best seasons in recent memory. Even moreso, Ferrari was hoping to return home and celebrate its dominance but the day proved a challenge for Ferrari after LeClerc, started the race at the front of the grid alongside Verstappen finished 6th and his teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr saw his day come to an early end after he retired from the race on lap four.
The problem for LeClerc was he was unable to jump ahead of Verstappen at the start and was unable to contend with the Red Bull’s speed. LeClerc didn’t make matters any better when spun out while challenging Sergio Perez for second place. LeClerc, who was up 46 points before race weekend saw his lead drop to 27 points.
“I was too greedy and I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points,” said Leclerc. It is a shame, it is seven points that are valuable at the end of the championship for sure and this shouldn’t happen again.”
The boost was well-received for Red Bull after Verstappen recorded for DNFs in the first three races, and Pérez, who noted the importance of not making mistakes, failed to finish the season opener.
“The most important thing of today was not making mistakes, because with these conditions it was so tricky out there,” said Pérez. To get a one-two under these conditions, I think it’s a great result for the team. We’ve been so unlucky, the start has been so difficult for us, so I am very pleased to see everyone in my team smiling today.”
The weekend could have turned out differently has LeClerc managed to hold off Verstappen during the sprint qualifying session. At the start of the sprint qualifying race on Saturday, LeClerc passed Verstappen but the Dutchman eventually retook the lead, and that was the start of his problems.
Beyond getting up to third, LeClerc’s hope for a podium finish came to an end with the mishap that saw him leaving the track under wet conditions and damaging his front wing. While the circuit was still wet but drying, LeClerc pitted for tires and came out of the pits ahead of Perez, but with warmer tires, the Perez was able to reclaim second.
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton continued to struggle with his car and ended the race in 13th. The seven-time world champion, who failed to win his eighth title last year to Verstappen, had to contend with an apology over the radio from Toto Wolff for the “undriveable” car.
Now that the Italian GP has come to a close, Formula One heads off to Miami, Mercedes is hoping to overcome its continuing problems, but suffice to say, they are running out of time, and so are the hopes of Lewis Hamilton at an eighth title this year.