For the second round of the 2021 season, F1 decided to take a trip to Emilia Romagna for the Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio Del Made In Italy E Dell’emilia Romagna 2021. Congrats if you managed to say that out loud correctly on the first try. I sure didn’t.
Crazy as the name is, it has nothing on the race itself. So much happened on Sunday, that I have to apologize in advance if I forget to mention how your favorite driver performed. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say there was not a minute that we were bored, even during the red flag. How am I going to cover this entire race in one post? Only one way to find out.
Hamilton’s Adventures In The Wet
Lewis Hamilton, the 7-time world champion took to the grid on Sunday after a great qualifying session that resulted in him starting from the front. All he had to do was nail the start, and cover off the two Red Bulls of Sergio Perez, and his championship rival Max Verstappen, assuming conditions were normal. Easy, right?
Conditions weren’t normal.
A good amount of rain decided to visit the track on Sunday, which resulted in the entire field making the switch to wet weather tires. Only four cars put on full wets, while everyone else was on inters. As fans, this is what we like to see. Unpredictability, and only the most skillful of drivers climbing to the top. For the drivers, though? It’s a whole other thing to worry about.
But this is Lewis Hamilton we’re talking about. He lives and breathes in wet conditions.
Unfortunately for him, so does Max Verstappen.
After a formation lap that almost had some drivers visit the wall, the grid lined up and waited for the lights to go out. All eyes were on Lewis and the two Red Bulls as one by one, the five lights lit up. And then David Croft delivered his famous line:
“It’s lights out and away we go!”
Lewis got a good start off the line, and was already preparing to cover off Checo in the Red Bull. But Max, being himself, makes an unbelievable move to the left of Lewis, almost going onto the grass in the process. Now, if you’re like me, and I’m guessing you are, you’re probably wondering the same thing I was.
How did Max go from third to alongside Lewis within seconds?!
According to his telemetry, he started in 2nd gear, to minimize wheelspin and give himself better traction off the line.
Not even two races fighting for a title and he’s already thinking like a champ.
The two fly down to Tamburello side by side, wheel to wheel, in a truly cinematic shot that you know we’re gonna see again. They approach the braking zone, Max on the inside, and we’re both wondering, “who’s gonna be latest on the brakes, who’s gonna come out in front?” Max leaves nothing but the curb for Lewis as they take the first corner and approach the second. Lewis, being the racing driver he is, didn’t back out of it, and tried to hold his line on the outside of Max. The curb punished him severely, giving his car, and most likely his spine, noticeable damage.
Do you know what I loved about that move, though? No one complained. With almost any other driver, we would’ve said “oh, he pushed him off the track, he needs to give the position back”. Not here. These two are fighting for a world championship, Max isn’t going to just leave the door open for his rival to come through. He will slam it in front of Lewis on live TV, and drop five seconds on him if there’s a problem. This is looking great for Max but horrible for Lewis. Not to worry though. It’s a wet race. A safety car is bound to appear. And sure enough, it did.
Safety Car Mishaps
Nicholas Latifi in the Williams had quite the spin coming out of Acque Minerali. He ended up sliding clean off the track. This wasn’t what brought out the safety car no, the problem arises when he tried to come back.
Nikita Mazepin, the Haas driver that we love to talk about was close behind Nicholas when this happened. As Mazepin is coming out of the corner and heading towards Variante Alta, Nicholas decides now is the best time to rejoin the track. I don’t know if Nicholas didn’t see Mazepin or what, but he came right across the track and went straight into the Haas, putting himself into the wall in the process.
Not gonna lie, when I heard that Mazepin was involved in the crash, I was ready to accuse him. You might’ve been as well, considering the community has “mixed feelings” about him. But looking at the onboard, the evidence is there. Nicholas came across the track, completely oblivious to the fact that Mazepin is literally right there, and put himself in the wall. All Mazepin could do was watch.
Suffering terminal damage, Nicholas was forced to retire, and the safety car was inevitably brought out to lead the pack. Mazepin’s teammate, Mick Schumacher, was on the home stretch during this time, trying to warm up his cold wets before the race restarted. Mick soon after learned rapid left and right movements in wet conditions does not produce a good result. His Haas met the wall near pit exit, and he said goodbye to his front wing. The thing I love about this though, is that because it was Mick, we all think “oh he’s just learning, you can’t blame him for crashing”. Now if it was Mazepin…
Thanks to great coaching from his engineer, Gary Gannon, Mick was able to regain some of his confidence and bring his car to the pits for a new front wing. These two are going to be a force to reckon with next year if Haas is competitive. Mick’s always shown that his first season in a racing series, he’s never quick. He uses it as a learning phase. But the next season? You better hope you aren’t competing with him for the title, because he will take it from you before you even realize it’s gone.
While Mick was able to salvage his race, Sergio Perez wasn’t so lucky. Checo was following the safety car queue when he managed to slide off the track at Piratella, losing two positions in the process. He then decided it would only be fair if he went ahead to get those two positions back. After all, it is under the safety car. Well, as a reward for his efforts, he was handed a 10 second stop and go penalty, because overtaking under the safety car is prohibited, unless the driver in front of you makes a mistake. Can we blame Checo for that? I sure can’t, because I found out the same time as Checo that what he did was illegal. If you watched Checo take those positions and thought “hey that doesn’t look right” then by all means, you can make the call. Because if we fans remember the rules, but the drivers don’t, there is no excuse. Not calling Checo an idiot for doing that, after all, this is the only driver in history to be in last place on lap one and later win the race, (Sakhir GP 2020) he just has to be more aware, especially now that he’s in a top tier team.
Hamilton’s Adventures In The Wet Pt. 2
We return to our protagonist at the safety car restart, who is now in a good position to make a run for the lead. Lewis has the whole straight in front of him, and he has Max in front to give him a slipstream to go for a move into Tamburello. He gets close to Max, pulls out to the right, looks for a move, but backs out of it. I was watching the onboard footage of that move, and it looked like he was on a wet line approaching the corner, so he would have much less grip going in, compared to Max on the dry line that had more grip, so he could afford to brake later.
All was not lost for the 7-time champ, as he began religiously chasing Max down, managing to grab faster laps with damage. As I was watching this, I was wondering, is Lewis really going that quick, or is Max just protecting his tires? My question was answered however, when Lewis got within 2 seconds of Max. Usually when a driver is 2 seconds away from you, if you were pacing yourself, now is the time to really push, because you don’t want them to get within that 1 second DRS range. Max was prepared though. Instead of pushing, he took a gamble and decided the track was dry enough to switch to slick tires. This was a huge decision, because if you put on the slicks a lap too early, and the track is still wet, you’ll find yourself and the gravel becoming very close friends. The moment Max went into the pits, Lewis gave it everything, to build a large enough gap to Max so that when he pits, he can come out in front. Lewis did everything he needed to, but when he came into the pits, a problem on the right front tire led to him having a 4 second pit stop, compared to Red Bull’s 2. It might not have sounded like a lot, but when he reached the pit exit, Max was about 2 seconds ahead of him.
All his hard work of catching Max undone.
He restarted his chase and again showed serious pace, closing the gap to Max lap after lap. But as he was trying to lap a backmarker going into to Tosa, he made a critical mistake and ended up sliding off the track and into the gravel, breaking his front wing and almost ending his race as a result. It really looked like this was going to be the first retirement in years for Lewis, with his last one being in Austria, 2018. But Lewis put the car in reverse, applied the throttle ever so gently, and told us:
By treating his Mercedes like a FWD, he managed to avoid digging himself deeper into the gravel, and escape back onto the track.
Hate him or love him, you gotta admit he is insanely good at what he does. For almost every other driver on the grid, that mistake would’ve been the end of their race. But he refuses to give up until it is literally impossible for him to continue. Thing is, Max is the same. That’s why I bet you, along with me, are looking forward to see how the rest of this season will play out.
Now Lewis did the hard part of getting the car out of the gravel, but he’s not in the best of positions. He lost a lot of time trying to fix his mistake, and is now in 9th, soon to be lapped. He needs some way to catch back up to the pack, to salvage whatever points he can. If only a safety car could come out right now, then he would be set.
How about a red flag?
Bottas and Russell Incident
We can’t talk about the 2021 Emilia Romagna GP and not cover this accident.
Valtteri Bottas was having an unsavory race down in 9th, and to add salt to the wound, George Russell was about to make that 10th, in a Williams.
Now I really like Valtteri, and I want to see him challenge for wins and even a championship.
But when your teammate, in the same machinery as you, is bending over backwards to keep himself in the fight for the lead, you gotta step up your game.
That aside, George is approaching him at 300km/h in a Williams, looking ready to make a move into Tamburello. But out of nowhere, George collided with Valtteri, sending them both into the wall, ending their races and bringing out the red flag in the process.
George climbed out of his car and walked over to Valtteri, who was still winded from the crash.
“Ah, he’s going to check if Valtteri’s okay, how nice of him”
Chances are your thought process was similar to mine when you saw George yell at Valtteri, blame him for the crash, and smack his helmet. Valtteri told George what he thought of this by showing him the middle finger.
I love F1.
The big question is whose fault was it? Was George justified yelling at Valtteri, or does he need to go back and apologize? After some time looking at replay footage on F1TV, I have my own opinion.
As George was approaching Valtteri, he pulled out to the right hand side to make his move. While doing so, Valtteri moved towards the right, still leaving enough space for George, but it was enough to make George move away from Valtteri, all the way to the right of the track. While doing so, you can hear the RPM’s on the Williams kick up, as he loses control and goes straight into Valtteri. My theory is that when Valtteri made his move towards the right, George took evasive action and went all the way to the edge of the track, which had the most standing water. When he lost control, I believe that because of how much water George was going through, the right tyres started to aquaplane, which would explain the sudden rise in RPM’s and the wheelspin. Now when half of your tires have grip and the others don’t, your car’s gonna do a little thing I call spinning out of control, which we saw happen right after. You can watch the onboard footage for yourself here.
In the end, I’m calling it a 50-50 racing incident. If I had to point fingers though, it’s more George’s fault than Valtteri’s, since he went for a risky move on the wet line. But again, it’s not one driver’s fault entirely. About what George did after the crash though? I get it, he was in shock, I’ve never crashed at 300km/h, I can imagine it’s not fun. But before you get out of your car to tell the other driver off, try to watch footage and understand what happened. If anything came out of that crash, it’s that George’s chances of joining Mercedes in the future aren’t looking the best at the moment.
What about you? Whose fault do you think it was? And do you agree with what George did after? Send me a message or shoot me an email here, I’d love to hear from you!
Hamilton’s Adventures In The Wet Pt. 3
If Lewis was a gambler, all he would have to do is walk up to the casino and he would instantly win. That’s how lucky he is.
What he does with that luck, is the reason he’s a 7-time world champ.
After the other two members of the Mercedes trio simultaneously ended their races, the red flag was brought out, stopping the race and sending all the cars to the pit lane. This gets rid of any gap to the cars in front, allows you to change tires, work on the car, and devise a new race strategy. For Lewis, with front wing damage and down in 9th, this was exactly what he needed.
Once the debris from the Russell-Bottas incident was cleaned up, the cars went back out onto the track for a rolling restart. Max almost bottled it coming out of Rivazza, trying to put heat into his tires, but he managed to hold it together, and led the race on the restart. All he had to do was build a gap to the cars behind. For Lewis though?
The hunt begins.
Car after car was passed by Lewis, as he scrambled to recover as many points as he could for the championship. At first, we were thinking he’d be lucky to get a point or two. Now, he was in 4th, looking to even grab a podium. He just has to get past Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. With DRS on the main straight, he made that move look relatively easy. Now in 3rd place, 2nd was an arrow shot away. It belonged to Lando Norris in the McLaren, who wanted to make this race his career best finish. Imagine the pressure of being able to have your best ever finish, but you just need to hold off Lewis Hamilton for the rest of the race.
This wasn’t going to be easy.
Lewis went down the main straight after Lando, ready to repeat his move on Charles. But to his surprise, Lando covered him off. Disappointed, he tried again the next lap. And again. And again. Lando was actually holding Lewis behind!
As I was watching, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder, if Max screws up in front and ends his race, we’re going to have a glorious battle for the win between Lewis and Lando.
He didn’t screw up.
In the end, after driving a near flawless race, Max won for the first time ever in Italy. And in 2nd place, after an incredible struggle, we have none other than Lewis Hamilton himself, with Lando Norris receiving 3rd after a well fought race. He had an incredible weekend, almost qualifying P3 but having it reduced to P7 after ignoring track limits. Regardless, he fought back during the race, making up his lost positions, making it, in my opinion, the best race of his career to date. He 100% deserved driver of the day.
We can’t ignore Lewis though. He was literally in the gravel and almost into the wall earlier in the race, nearly a lap down, and he still managed to finish in second. Fun fact, after that effort, he is leading the championship by one point, with Verstappen behind him.
This is the difference between Lewis and Valtteri. And it’s why we can’t wait for the next races this season.
“What were you thinking?”
I’ve been waiting for this part. “What were you thinking?” is a section where we ask a team or driver honestly, what were they thinking?
This race’s moment came from Pierre Gasly.
Not from Pierre himself though. From his team. He started the race in 5th, and while his rivals were on Intermediate tires, AlphaTauri thought it would be cool to put him on Wets.
This was not cool.
Pierre was a bystander as car after car breezed past him on better tires. There was even a time in the race where there was a train of cars just waiting to get past him. The worst part was, AlphaTauri didn’t change his tires! They kept out there on Wets, until the pack started switching to dry tires. He managed to salvage what he could from his race, going from P18 to P7, in a great drive that showed everyone what Pierre Gasly could do. But during that race, we had to ask AlphaTauri:
“What were you thinking?”
This was a race we won’t forget. Hamilton’s fightback, Norris’s flight, Bottas and Russell’s crash, and so many other things that I again have to apologize for missing. What did you think of this race? Shoot me an email or send me a message here, because like I said, I love hearing from you! Thank you so much for reading The Late Brakers, and I’ll see you in the next one! Take care!