Max Verstappen won the 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix for Red Bull in an eventful race at Imola.
The Milton Keynes-based team picked up their first win of the season through Verstappen. The Dutchman began the race third behind new team-mate Sergio Perez, but overtook the Mexican and polesitter Lewis Hamilton at the start.
Verstappen maintained the lead during the first half of the race, and then accumulated a more dominant lead following the restart after a big crash between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas caused a mid-race red flag.
The Dutchman had nearly lost the car on the restart, but he would ultimately take his 11th career win by 22 seconds from second place Hamilton.
Perez had a more difficult afternoon. The Mexican had impressed to qualify in second place, but lost places to Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at the start. He was given a time penalty for overtaking 2 cars under an early safety car after he had gone wide while behind the safety car, and also suffered with a faulty steering wheel, but had fought back to be in fourth by the time of the red flag. However, he had a spin just after the restart, and finished 12th.
Speaking after the race, Verstappen admitted his surprise to get such a great start but was delighted to turn it into victory.
He said, “I am of course very happy with this win for everyone in the Team and Honda. I think the key was of course the start as we had a great launch. I surprised myself as it was always hard to get off the line in the wet last year but we worked hard to try and improve that and it worked.
“I wouldn’t call it a dominant performance as Lewis was following me quite well and for him to come back to second after his incident means they have a lot of pace in that car. We won because we made the right calls with tyres at the right time and the Team managed everything well in these conditions. With the tyres degrading, choosing the right moment to go onto slicks wasn’t easy but we got it right. I had a little moment at the re-start trying to warm up the tyres with some throttle but luckily we didn’t spin.
“We still have to work hard to improve because it’s very close, but for now I’m very happy with the result.”
On the other side of the garage, Perez said it was a race defined by mistakes and that he admitted his disappointment at losing a potential podium because of his.
He said, “The conditions out there were really difficult today and I made quite a few mistakes that were very costly. I struggled to retain any temperature in the tyres, so I lost it under the safety car and I got a 10 second penalty.
“It is of course important that I get used to the car and that I learn these lessons, but I messed up, I’m very disappointed in myself and really sorry to the Team. I think at the re-start the podium was ours and the pace of the car was good today, we should have finished one and two on the podium. Let’s focus on the next race now, we will work really hard as a Team and come back stronger.”