Max Verstappen won an action-packed, red-flagged Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to strike back in his 2021 Formula 1 title battle against Lewis Hamilton, who recovered from a rare error.

A dramatic wet-dry second round of the season was suspended at mid-distance following a huge crash between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, but Verstappen was in a league of his own after passing Hamilton at the start as he claimed his first win of the season.

Hamilton turned in a strong recovery drive to second after taking a trip through the gravel in the slippery conditions, while McLaren’s Lando Norris completed the podium in a brilliant third place.

 

It was a strong day for Ferrari on home soil as Charles Leclerc headed home teammate Carlos Sainz in fourth, despite the latter taking two trips through the gravel throughout the race.

Daniel Ricciardo was sixth in his second race for McLaren, while Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon completed the rest of the points-paying positions for Aston Martin, AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo and Alpine.

A downpour before the start of the race created extremely difficult conditions with half of the track soaked and the other half bone dry, forcing the drivers to start on wet tyres.

A brilliant launch from Verstappen from third of the grid saw him get his Red Bull alongside pole sitter Hamilton on the run to the first chicane, where the pair made slight contact as the Dutchman muscled his way into the lead.

Verstappen held a small advantage throughout the opening stint despite an overcut attempt from Mercedes when conditions dried up enough for the field to switch onto slicks, before Hamilton continued his charge.

But Hamilton made a key error as he hunted down Verstappen, with the Mercedes driver slewing off the track at Tosa as he attempted to get past the back markers.

Hamilton managed to escape the gravel but required a pit stop to fix a broken front wing, moments before the race was interrupted by a red flag on Lap 34 following a massive incident involving Bottas and Russell.

The pair were battling for position on the run to the Tamburello chicane when Russell lost control of his car while attempting a pass on the Mercedes driver.

Russell collided with Bottas and both cars were sent spearing into the barriers on the left-hand side of the track, before a second heavy impact followed as they came to rest in the wall on the right.

Both drivers emerged unscathed from the massive accident and engaged in an argument over the crash, with Russell running over to Bottas’ car to make his feelings clear.

Having corrected a massive slide under the Safety Car, Verstappen maintained his lead at the Safety Car restart once racing resumed, before surging clear to win by 22s.

Hamilton restarted from ninth and made short work of cutting his way through the field, passing Norris’ McLaren three laps from the end to salvage an important result in the championship race.

Securing the bonus point for recording the fastest lap means that Hamilton holds a one-point lead over Verstappen heading into the third round of the season in Portugal on 2 May, with both drivers having scored a victory.

FULL RACE RESULTS FROM THE 2021 F1 EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX.

 

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