Verstappen cuts F1 lead with dominant win
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen dominated a wet-dry Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to revive his title hopes as rival Charles Leclerc threw away third place with a costly error.
The Ferrari driver was pushing to try to pass Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez after a late pit stop when he lost control at the Variante Alta chicane at Imola.
Leclerc had to pit for a new front wing and fresh tyres and dropped to ninth, and could recover only to sixth.
The error enabled Verstappen to slash his deficit to Leclerc from 45 points to 27, moving the Dutchman up from fifth in the championship to second.
Until Leclerc’s mistake, the Ferrari driver appeared to be heading for a frustrating but acceptable third place. But in an instant he threw away a significant part of the advantage he had gained thanks to Red Bull’s poor early-season reliability.
The fact the error happened at Ferrari’s home race, in front of a packed crowd of their passionate Italian tifosi, will have made it feel even worse, especially as Leclerc had emphasised before the weekend the need “to not overdo things” with expectations so high at Imola.
It made for a nightmare race for Ferrari, who had lost Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz on the first lap when the Spaniard was tipped into the gravel by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The error cost Leclerc seven points – the difference between third and sixth places – and he said afterwards he was “disappointed in myself”.
Mercedes’ George Russell made a great start to vault from 11th on the grid to sixth on the first lap.
Unlike Russell, teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton was unable to make up ground at the start and his race soon fell into a dispiriting pattern.
The Mercedes’ lack of straight-line speed meant he could not pass Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, as he trailed around in 12th place in the opening stages.
He was then impeded by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon at the pit stops, and the five-second penalty earned by the Alpine was no consolation as Sir Lewis now found himself stuck behind Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, again unable to pass in what was one of his worst races for years. (BBC)