Numerous accidents and a red flag were not enough to stop Red Bull driver Max Verstappen from picking up his maiden race win of the 2021 Formula 1 championship.
Verstappen started in third position, but shot off to an early lead over Hamilton, who had pole position. It almost seemed destined to be another close fought affair against the Mercedes driver, much like the one we witnessed in Bahrain.
However, a rare mistake was committed by Hamilton as he beached his car in the gravel. He was able to reverse his way away, but lost far too much time doing so.
While the British driver was able to fight his way back to second spot, he was always going to end up short against Verstappen. Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top five.
The start line looked fairly dry early in the race despite rain ahead of the start time. However, the opening corners were wet and treacherous and most drivers opted to start on intermediate tyres.
Both Red Bull cars found their way ahead of Hamilton within the first braking point. It may be argued that Hamilton suffered a bit owing to the wing damage on his car following the British driver running over the curb.
The safety car was brought out for Nicholas Latifi, who spun off at Acque Minerali. While he was able to rejoin the race, he almost immediately collided with Nikita Mazepin. It pushed him into the wall. At this stage, Verstappen was ahead of Hamilton and Ferrari’s Leclerc could be seen in third.
The fight for sixth position was fierce with Pierre Gasly, Norris, Sainz and Lance Stroll all frequently swapping places.
Verstappen, meanwhile, was able to build a considerable lead over Hamilton.
For Sergio Perez, it was not a race to remember. The Mexican driver was forced to wait for 10 seconds following a penalty for re-passing Daniel Ricciardo and Gasly after he had run off the track.
A drying track made life easier for Verstappen and Hamilton, who stretched their lead over Leclerc in third spot.
Sebastian Vettel became the first driver to switch to dry tyres and it was around this time that Hamilton began to eat into Verstappen’s lead. The 36-year-old had somehow managed to find better grip on ageing tyres. Such was his strength over this period that he covered Verstappen’s 5-second lead into merely just 1 second.
Red Bull realised they would have to go for a pitstop soon enough and decided to use this opportunity in the 27th lap. It allowed Hamilton the opportunity to make some ground. however, he had to stop in the next lap. The fact that it wasn’t the cleanest turnaround meant there was no impact on the grid positions.
For what promised to be an intense race, it was perhaps a bit of an anti-climax when Hamilton made a mistake and ran off at Tosa. He eventually made it back out but had to stop in the pit due to front wing damage. He re-joined in 9th spot and was a lap down on Verstappen.
The Stevenage-born driver was handed a lifeline when Valtteri Bottas and George Russell collided moments later. It brought the red flag out and allowed Hamilton time to catch up.
At this stage, Leclerc was in second position and Norris saw himself a spot behind. The McLaren driver made a quick pass at Turn 1 to find himself in second.
Hamilton, meanwhile, began his fightback and made short work of Kimi Raikkonen, Stroll and Ricciardo, gliding past each of them in quick succession.
Verstappen eventually built a considerable gap over second spot, one that was over 20 seconds. Hamilton made his way to second spot to ensure the two are neck-and-neck at the top of the standings.
This was Verstappen’s 11th career race win.
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