Vfirst before Hamilton, that was what the Formula 1 scene had expected before the Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna this Sunday in Imola. The forecasting experts were right. The Dutchman won in the Red Bull ahead of Hamilton in the Mercedes. But third place for Lando Norris in a McLaren ahead of Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) is evidence of an exciting softening of the long pecking order in the premier class – and beyond that of the second Grand Prix story of the season, which had much more to offer than the exciting head-to-head race: breakdowns, slips, accidents, a drama for the German drivers in two acts.
Rain just in time for the race. Some drivers don’t like that, others see it as a saving whim of nature. The perspective depends on the quality of the car and the starting position. Up front, where Hamilton was on the grid in front of Sergio Perez, Verstappen and Leclerc, the wetness is more of an annoying problem, a risk of losing all chances in the blink of an eye. If only the bolide runs so nicely on this narrow course. It doesn’t forgive mistakes, misjudges a few centimeters here or there, and that’s it. On wet asphalt anyway. But far back in Mick Schumacher’s circle, rain like this is a blessing at first glance. “I love it,” said the Haas pilot, referring to the weather forecast, “to drive under these conditions.” Some fear it. The race confirmed it.
Start: Verstappen pulls forward from third place, shoots parallel across the slope with Hamilton. Behind them the field follows in a large spray fountain. The rivals for the world title hardly leave any room for each other, nobody wants to withdraw. Hamilton should have done it. It’s in a worse position when you turn into the second corner. The cars touch each other, Hamilton loses a piece of the front wing and his lead. The fastest fell by the wayside.
Carlos Sainz couldn’t do that in the Ferrari, but he got back into the race while Nicholas Latifi crashed into the lane with his Williams. He was unharmed like everyone else that day. The safety car caught the field and slowed it down. The pace is still comparatively high, but the brake and tire temperatures drop. And so the pilots try to give the rubbers new heat in a zigzag course. Bang. Mick Schumacher was already hanging in the wall, lost the front wing, finished 16th, but fell to the end of the field, where he “replaced” another German: Sebastian Vettel. He was 13th in qualifying. But because of braking problems, Aston Martin is unable to prepare the four-time world champion’s car for the downhill race on the grid within the prescribed time. He had to go into the pit lane to solve the problem, was only allowed to rush behind the field and had to “sit down” another ten seconds in front of the pit in the race as a penalty.
That too. If you deduct the delays, it would have been enough to finish seventh, the result of his team-mate Lance Stroll. After all, things made slight progress for the Hessians over the weekend. “But I can’t run the car like that yet,” he said, describing his process of getting used to a car that, according to team boss Otmar Zapfnauer, “is completely different from what Sebastian has driven so far”.
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