Verstappen led every lap with a dominant drive and secured the fastest lap bonus point to take a maximum points haul after his victory in the sprint and dramatically cut into Leclerc’s championship lead. 

Leclerc, who fell as low as fourth with a poor start in wet conditions, made his first major blunder of the season with a late spin as he tried to pressurise Sergio Perez for second place in the closing stages of the race. 

The Moneqasque spun into the barriers and was fortunate to continue in the race but required a pit stop to fix his damaged Ferrari, dropping him to ninth. Leclerc managed to recover to sixth to salvage eight points, but has seen his championship advantage shrink to 27 points. 

Perez helped Red Bull seal its first 1-2 finish since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, while Lando Norris completed the podium in third place for McLaren. 

It marked a disastrous first home race of the season for Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz getting spun into retirement after first-lap contact with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo

George Russell, who successfully managed to evade the opening lap drama at the Tamburello chicane to work his way up from 11th to sixth, finished fourth after passing Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and benefitting from Leclerc’s error. 

Russell held off a late charge from Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas who was sixth, ahead of Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda, who brilliantly rose from 12th on the grid to take seventh for AlphaTauri. 

Sebastian Vettel, Magnussen and Lance Stroll completed the rest of the top 10 as Aston Martin finally scored its first points of the season. 

More misery for lapped Hamilton 

Hamilton’s terrible start to the season continued at Imola as he struggled to a lowly 13th place after spending the majority of the race left starring at the back of Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri. 

The seven-time world champion gained three places on the opening lap but lost out during the pit stops as he dropped behind Esteban Ocon, who was hit with a five-second time penalty for being unsafely released into Hamilton’s path as the pair exited the pits. 

He found himself behind Gasly and despite running within DRS range for the rest of the grand prix he was unable to pull off an overtake. Hamilton’s misery was compounded when he was lapped by race-leader and 2021 title rival Verstappen on lap 54. 

After the race, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff came over the radio to apologise to Hamilton. 

“Hi Lewis, Sorry for what you have had to drive today,” Wolff said. “I know this is undrivable…We will come out of this.”

A despondent-sounding Hamilton responded: “Yeah no worries, Toto. Just keep on working hard.” 

Hamilton had already written off his chances of fighting for the world title this year. He has now slipped to seventh in the championship, 58 points behind Leclerc.