Following an action-packed Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, we pick out five winners and five losers from the second round of the 2021 Formula 1 season.

Max Verstappen reigned supreme in changeable conditions to claim his first victory of the season, while Lewis Hamilton salvaged crucial points in his bid to become an eight time world champion following a rare mistake in an incident-strewn race that had drama throughout.

While some starred, others had a race to forget and will be keen to get to Portugal as quickly as possible in a bid to make amends and put Imola well behind them…

Winners: 

Max Verstappen

After coming so close to winning the season-opener, Verstappen got his slice of victory at the second time of asking to end his Italian curse in emphatic style.

Verstappen, who retired at all three races last season, made a brilliant start to snatch the lead from polesitter Hamilton thanks to some canny driving at the first chicane. 

The Dutchman pulled clear early on and only came close to losing the win when he had a half-spin just before the restart following the red flag. Having regained his composure, he stormed to a dominant first win of the season to cut chief rival Hamilton’s points advantage in the title race.

Lewis Hamilton 

Hamilton would have found himself on the losers’ list had he not managed to miraculously escape from the gravel trap at Tosa following a rare error that left him up against the wall with a damaged front wing. 

While it is true that Hamilton was handed a large slice of fortune with the red flag enabling him to restart on the lead lap in ninth place, the seven-time world champion pulled off a determined recovery drive on a day he could have so easily walked away with zero points. 

Hamilton carved his way through the field and fought his way back to second, snatching the fastest lap bonus point away from Verstappen in the final laps to preserve his championship lead by a point. It could be a hugely important result in a season where every point will prove vital in what promises to be a close title battle. 

Lando Norris 

Lando Norris was crestfallen on Saturday afternoon after losing his best-ever qualifying result due to a track limits infringement that meant he lined up from seventh on the grid instead of third. 

If the Briton felt he had let his McLaren team down in qualifying, he certainly made amends in the race with another starring performance on his way to an excellent third place to score his second podium finish in F1. 

Norris’ brave, fully committed, three-wide pass in the spray on Carlos Sainz was particularly impressive, as was his stubborn and clever defence to briefly halt Hamilton’s charge. Ultimately, his McLaren lacked the pace to keep the reigning world champion behind but third was a just reward for a sublime drive. 

Ferrari 

A great result for Ferrari and a second two-car points finish from the opening two races as a gamble to tweak its qualifying set-up favoured the wet conditions when they arrived on Sunday. 

While Charles Leclerc was disappointed to miss out on a possible podium, a strong fourth tied his best result in his last 15 grands prix and sees him move up to fourth in the championship standings. 

Teammate Carlos Sainz, despite making at least two high-profile errors after missing out on a spot in Q3 in qualifying, followed Leclerc home in fifth to record his best result since moving to Maranello over the winter. 

A solid result on home soil will act as further relief and encouragement for Ferrari as the Italian outfit looks to put its woeful 2020 campaign well and truly behind it.  

Alpine 

At one point Alpine’s drivers were running as low as 16th and 17th, but they ended up coming away from the weekend with an unlikely double points haul following a point-less outing in the first round in Bahrain

Despite not having a particularly competitive car all weekend relative to its midfield rivals, Esteban Ocon drove well to snatch the final point on offer - which turned into P9 when Kimi Raikkonen was demoted from ninth with a 30-second post-race time penalty for an infringement under the Safety Car. 

Raikkonen’s penalty also promoted Alonso - who had two trips through the gravel - into 10th, meaning the two-time world champion recorded his first point of his F1 comeback and helped the French squad get off the mark for the campaign. 

Losers: 

Valtteri Bottas 

A shocking weekend for Valtteri Bottas, who was only eighth on the grid after a dismal qualifying session in which he lacked the pace to keep up with the frontrunners.

The Finn dropped to 10th early on and failed to make significant inroads at any point during the race. His Emilia Romagna Grand Prix came to a premature end on Lap 34 when he got caught up in a huge crash with Williams driver George Russell as they battled over P9. 

While both drivers pointed the finger of blame firmly at each other, the incident would have been avoided altogether had Bottas not found himself in a position he should never have been in given the machinery he has at his disposal.

George Russell and Williams 

Russell was also a big loser from the accident, as he lost the chance of getting off the mark with his first points for Williams for the second year straight at Imola. 

While the move was definitely on and the crash ultimately deemed a racing incident, the Briton did himself no favours with the way he conducted himself in his response, which Mercedes boss Toto Wolff sternly disapproved of.

It was a bad day at the office for his teammate, Nicholas Latifi, too. The Canadian crashed out of the race following clumsy contact with Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin as he misjudged his return to the track after a spin into the gravel. 

Imola threw up exactly the kind of situation that Williams would be looking to capitalise on, but both drivers squandered a very real possibility of getting some points on the board. A missed opportunity for the Grove squad. 

Sergio Perez 

Sergio Perez’s weekend was a prime example of how quickly things can change in F1. On Saturday, he grabbed the headlines by outpacing Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to line-up a career-best P2 on the grid, but things went south on Sunday.

Things began to unravel for the Mexican early on when he picked up a silly 10-second stop/go penalty for overtaking two cars under the Safety Car after running wide through the gravel and dropping positions. 

Another mistake on Lap 38 saw Perez spin off from fourth and plummet down to 14th. From there, he could only recover to P12 in what marked a highly disappointing end to what had been shaping up to be a promising weekend. Perez’s failure to score means Mercedes has retained its early championship lead over Red Bull. 

AlphaTauri 

For the second weekend running, AlphaTauri will be left to rue a missed opportunity to score big points having failed to make the most of its seriously fast AT02 challenger. 

Rookie Yuki Tsunoda started from the back after a costly crash in qualifying but looked to be turning in an impressive fightback into the points until he spun out on his own accord having briefly got his nose ahead of Hamilton at the restart. 

A questionable decision to put Pierre Gasly on full wet tyres at the start proved to be a terrible call as the Frenchman struggled and slipped from his P5 start and initially out of the points. Gasly made it back up to P8 on slicks and inherited seventh when Lance Stroll received a post-race penalty, but AlphaTauri would have been expecting much more from its home race at the start of the day.

Sebastian Vettel 

Things have managed to go from bad to worse for Sebastian Vettel and his start to life at Aston Martin. 

Following his disastrous debut in Bahrain, Vettel this time at least made it out of Q1 but through no fault of his own was forced into a pitlane start after his car wasn’t prepared in time for the grid after Aston discovered a brake issue. 

The four-time world champion was then given a 10-second stop/go penalty for the rules violation during the race, ruining any hopes of a decent result before he ultimately retired with gear selection problems.

 

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