2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: The F1 debrief

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With F1 returning to Imola once again in 2021, many fans were hesitant to raise any hopes. Yet the wet weather forecast ahead of the weekend suggested drama could unfold. And boy-oh-boy did Imola deliver many talking points this year! The GP Grandstand team reflect on the flashpoints from the 2021 F1 Imola Grand Prix.

Gareth Winslade: “A monster strategic battle”

The Verstappen vs Hamilton battle is already shaping up to be an absolute belter.  I hope we see them fighting wheel to wheel more than we have so far.  But I would settle for a monster strategic battle played out across the season.

Imola 2021 Race Start Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez being on the front row was the feel-good story of Saturday.  He’d shown the paddock that Red Bull were right to back him.

AlphaTauri made a horrendous strategic mistake with Gasly this race.  As soon as it was clear that his wet tyres were the wrong tyres to be on, they should have got him in and onto intermediates.  He would have been at the back but with clean air and good pace.

Over in the red camp, both drivers had spins and adventures but brought home a big haul of points for the team.  4th and 5th is a great result compared to last season.  Sainz continues to be a “smooth operator” while Leclerc is one of the most exciting talents on the grid.

Lance Stroll drove a great race.  Struggling with his gearbox all race, he still dragged himself home in the points.  Stroll is making the most of what he has got.  At Imola he showed why he deserves to be in F1.

Thiemo-Albers Daly: “Imola a worthy sequel to Bahrain”

Now that’s what I call Formula 1 2021! Verstappen’s performance (especially his great race start) definitively proves that we’re going to have a proper Championship battle on our hands this year.

Post-Qualifying Imola 2021
Image: AMG Mercedes F1 / LAT Images

Hamilton’s rare mistake showed that even the best of the best aren’t immune to mistakes but his recovery drive shows why he’s one of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history. Seeing McLaren back on the podium with relative ease is also fantastic to see and well deserved.

Ferrari should also get some praise too as they continue their silent but strong rise back to the top of the grid. Imola was a worthy sequel to Bahrain and I can’t wait for more.

Jacob Phillips: “Max showed maturity”

I thoroughly enjoyed this race which wasn’t short of incident. At the front, Max showed a level of maturity needed to pick up victories in what could be the tightest of championship fights. Hamilton highlighted that even the best can get caught out by conditions.

My driver of the weekend is Lando Norris who made Daniel Ricciardo look distinctly average in the sister McLaren. Further down the road, it’s great to see Ferrari in and amongst the upper echelons.

Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri at Imola 2021
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

My disappointment of the weekend is Alpha Tauri who failed to capitalise on a track that suits their car, be it through driver error or poor strategy choice. In terms of the red flag incident between Russell and Bottas, I feel that George is slightly more at fault. Once again the modern safety standards coming to the forefront as both drivers walked away unscathed from such a shunt.

Jim Kimberley: “Imola energised me for the 2021 season”

I don’t think I can remember a period in my F1 viewing history with as many red flags. Imola made up for not having its race halted in 2020 as its cousins Mugello and Monza did with that scary Russell-Bottas smash. Huge damage for both cars in the first year with a cost cap could have implications later in the season.

Lando Norris fending off Hamilton in the dying laps on tyres that, frankly, shouldn’t survive that long was great to see. The potential of Norris and McLaren this year together with Ricciardo once he acclimatises is hugely exciting. I expect to see Norris on the podium at least once more this year, too.

George Russell of Williams
Image: Williams F1 Team

Pierre Gasly will be scratching his head as to why he wasn’t battling amongst the Ferrari’s and Norris ahead. That itself is a great sentence to write to demonstrate AlphaTauri’s pace this year. However, their strategy gamble to keep Gasly on wets was woeful. The red flag saved his race by closing up the field. Somebody on their pit wall either saw a weather forecast that no one else did or imagined similar headlines to Monza 2020.

From the opening bunch of races, this was the one I was least excited about. That it was action-packed, and with Red Bull and Mercedes both showing promise, Imola has really has energised me for the full season.

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